19th Nov 2012
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to hire a probate attorney, then surely a question on your mind will be how much hiring such a professional is going to cost. The fees for this kind of lawyer are not the same in every part of the United States. Different states have different sets of guidelines and statutes connected with the transfer of property after a death has taken place. These varying requirements that are set forth by each individual state form the basis for what the lawyer will charge in order to probate the estate for the deceased individual.
Another factor that must be taken into consideration is the size of the estate as does the location of the estate. In California, attorney’s fees are set by statue and they are non-negotiable. The size of the estate matters as the fees are based on a sliding scale relating to the monetary value of the estate. Here is an example of how that looks:
- 4% of the first $100,000
- 3% of the next $100,000
- 2% of the next $800,000
- 1% on the next $9,000,000
- 0.5% on the next $15,000,000
- A reasonable fee thereafter
There are also fees involved with the courts so be prepared to face those as well. Here is an example to illustrate these points:
If an estate has a $500,000 house, and there is a $400,000 mortgage on it. The statutory fee would be $13,000 based on the full $500,000 value:
- 4% of the first $100k = $4,000
- + 3% of the next $100k = $3,000
- + 2% of the remaining $300,000 = $6,000
- Total: $13,000
Fees paid to the executor
The executor is entitled to charge the same fee as the probate lawyer charges. A lot of times the executor is a family member who waives the fee. (Most family members start out saying “it’s my family; I’m not going to charge.” But in many cases they change their minds after they see how much work is involved and that no one else is helping.)
All of the assets that the decedent owned need to be “inventoried” and “appraised”. The Court appoints the appraiser, whose fees are 0.1% of the value of the appraised assets (so in a $500,000 estate the appraisal fee would be $500).
Here’s how the fees would add up on a simple $500,000 probate case.
- $395 Court filing fee
- $100 publication fee
- $500 appraisal fee
- $395 fee to file Petition for Final Distribution
- $13,000 attorney’s statutory fee (see above example under “statutory fee”)
- Possibly a $13,000 executor’s statutory fee
- Total: $14,390 to $27,390
What you will pay for a lawyer to help you in a probate matter also depends on whether the case is testate or intestate. A testate estate means that the person who has passed on left a will. If there is a will this reduces your overall cost greatly because the lawyer and judge will know from the contents of the will whom is the representative and how assets from the estate are to be dispersed as per the descendant’s wishes.
When there is no will, then the estate is considered intestate and there are more expenses associated with this type of situation because the attorney and the courts need to do more work in this instance. Also, these types of cases tend to take much longer and the longer something takes the more it costs.
We have several posts on this blog that discuss the probate process when there is no will. If you are interested in learning more about that continue reading this blog or contact Attorney Dwight Tompkins if you find yourself in such a situation.
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