Finally, let me show you the general rule of probate attorney fees. Attorneys' total fees are usually approximately equal to the executor's total fees, between 2% and 5% of the estate. A will is the judicial procedure in which the last will of a deceased person is proven and made effective. This involves first verifying that the will is legal and then ensuring that the deceased person's intentions are met.
If the deceased person did not leave a will, the court must decide how to distribute the assets of the deceased's estate. This is done in accordance with state laws that specify to whom the assets of an estate should go if the deceased did not have a will. Not leaving a last will and will is known as “intestate succession”. If there is a will, it generally identifies a person or entity to act as executor or personal representative of the estate.
In many cases, the services of an attorney aren't even necessary. If the will is not contested by anyone and the estate is not large and does not involve real property, then the executor only needs to perform certain tasks. They will usually have to locate the assets, evaluate and sell them if necessary, pay creditors, file final tax returns, and distribute the assets according to the directives of the will. The main factors affecting the fees charged by an estate attorney are the role the lawyer plays and the size of the estate.
If an estate has a large enough value and the executor does not feel competent to complete all the required activities, the executor can hire an attorney for the probate process. In some states, the law sets the fee paid to an attorney for estate. If a person hires an attorney to challenge a will, they will most likely charge the person an hourly fee. Therefore, the lawyer will keep a careful record of the amount of time spent on the case and will bill the person on a monthly basis for the time spent.
The total sum of all the hours the lawyer spends on probate (times the hourly rate) is the final total of the amount paid to the lawyer. A lawyer may agree to represent a person in challenging a will based on a contingency fee. This would mean that the lawyer would take 30 to 45% of the amount the lawyer recovers for the client as attorney's fees. In a contingency fee situation, the lawyer is only paid if he recovers money for the client.
Therefore, a lawyer would only accept a challenge of wills case on the basis of a contingency fee, if he were very sure of winning an award of money for the client. An attorney is more likely to charge an hourly fee for representing a client in a challenge of wills case. If a lawyer represents a client in challenging a will, the total fee will depend on how many hours the lawyer spends on the case until it is concluded. If the case must go to trial, attorney's fees could amount to thousands of dollars.
A person who wants to challenge a will should consider what it would cost and what can be won before deciding whether to proceed. After all debts and taxes have been paid, including attorneys' fees, the personal representative can distribute the assets to the beneficiaries and close the estate. The advantage of hiring an experienced probate lawyer to handle estate succession is that the lawyer knows how to proceed and can probably legalize an estate in the most efficient way. For example, if a property, whether personal or real estate, needs to be appraised and sold, an experienced probate attorney will likely know qualified appraisers who can perform the appraisal and auctioneers or agents who can complete the sale.
An inexperienced person would not know how to proceed and would not have contacts that can be hired quickly to complete tasks. If you have been appointed executor or personal representative of an estate and you don't know where to start, you may want to hire an estate attorney. An experienced probate attorney is familiar with probate procedures and should know exactly what to do. Or, if you haven't been named a beneficiary and you believe you have a claim for part of an estate, you'll want to contact an estate attorney to discuss your rights and whether your claim is justified and worth moving forward.
Susan is a member of the California Bar Association. Graduated in 1983 from the University of California, Hastings College of Law and practiced plaintiff's personal injury law for 8 years in California. He also taught civil procedure in the Paralegal program at Santa Clara University. He then taught English as a foreign language for eight years in the Czech Republic.
Most recently, he taught English as a Second Language for Montgomery County Public Schools in suburban Washington, D.C. He now spends his time writing about legal and environmental issues. You can follow her on her LinkedIn page. Many people choose to legalize wills without an attorney or only consult with an attorney during certain parts of the probate process.
There is a specific formula used to calculate the probate attorney's ordinary costs, based on the value of the estate. If you work with a probate lawyer, you shouldn't have to pay your lawyer anything up front or during the administration process. Because much of the typical probate case is just standard paperwork, most lawyers use paralegals to help them. In addition to this, you can expect to pay additional court fees for a probate arbitrator and other probate documents.
They require probate lawyers to pay hourly wages and fixed rates to ensure that everything was done correctly when the time comes for the distribution of the estate. The ordinary costs of the probate attorney are predetermined by law and are based on the value of the decedent's estate. Some lawyers may charge separate fixed fees for different parts of the probate process, such as one charge to obtain probate letters or letters of administration and another to liquidate the estate. Regardless of the method a lawyer uses to charge clients, their fees will increase if there are complications with legalization.