There are a number of drawbacks to the probate process when administering the estate of someone who has passed away. The four main challenges are expense, time, privacy, and control:
1. Expense. Court filing fees, appraiser’s fees, personal representative’s fees, and attorney’s fees all add up to create a significant cost for any administration of probate. Of course, all or most of that cost will be taken from the decedent’s estate. Thus, the fruits of a lifetime of work can be significantly reduced by all of the costs just trying to administer the decedent’s assets.
2. Time. Any court proceeding takes an enormous amount of time. Court dockets are clogged, and court personnel are doing their best to move cases, but any probate will invariably take time. That means a lot of time not knowing how things will end up, and a long time before beneficiaries can receive the assets of a decedent’s estate. Typically, the probate process can take a minimum of six months, sometimes it could take as long as two years.
3. Privacy. Any will subject to probate becomes a matter of public record. If your family is well known, or simply wishes to keep their financial matters private, that becomes particularly difficult during the formal administration of probate.
4. Control. Even though a personal representative is named to administer aspects of a will, virtually all of the personal representative’s decisions on the estate’s behalf must go through court approval. In sum, a deceased family loses a considerable amount of control over decisions once probate has begun.
It is important to understand those hurdles early in the probate process so you can know what to expect when it comes to administering a loved one’s estate. In this article, we are going to talk about making one of those hurdles just a little bit easier – the expense hurdle.
Simply stated, there is a way in which you can add a little predictability to the administration of your estate by determining whether you can have your probate attorney provide you with fixed fee probate. That is what we will discuss here. If, after reading this article, you would like to learn more about fixed fee probate from an experienced West Palm Beach estate planning firm, we welcome you to contact us at Doane & Doane, PA. Call today at 561-656-0200 or fill out our online contact form.
What is a Fixed Fee Probate?
The common way in which to pay a probate attorney to handle your loved one’s estate, and properly advise the personal representative of the estate (whether that is you or someone else), is to pay the attorney by the hour. However, we all know that based on the length of time and complexity of a probate matter, that attorney fee could be substantial.
Thus, many probate attorneys will allow clients to pay for a “fixed fee probate.” What that means is that the attorney will provide you with a fixed amount that it will cost to handle the entire probate matter. Thus, you will be guaranteed to only have to pay that fixed amount to deal with the probate of an estate.
Why is that a good thing? Predictability. There will likely be a number of expenses that will come out of estate assets, whether they are to pay creditors or to pay court fees. Thus, the more that you can predict and easily budget for certain fixed expenses the easier the probate process becomes.
Accordingly, you would do well to consider discussing whether you can have a fixed fee probate arrangement with your probate attorney.
Fixed Fee Does Not Mean the Same Fee
One important distinction needs to be made here. Probate attorneys cannot quote the same fee for every probate matter and advertise that fee. Why? Because every estate could be vastly different in the amount of work it takes to settle all the relevant matters. Indeed, many times an estate with a lesser amount of assets could still take much more of an attorney’s time.
To give you some context, here is an example. Assume that you have an estate with a value of $2 million and another estate with a value of $500,000. Even though you may immediately assume that the $2 million estates would have a higher fixed fee, that may not be the case. If the $2 million estates have no outstanding loans, a bank account from only one bank, and no credit card debt, then the estate will be relatively easy to administer. Now say that the $500,000 estate has two outstanding loans, savings accounts in four different banks, an investment account, and several credit cards with remaining balances. The $500,000 estate will take more of an attorney’s time to resolve appropriately. Thus, the fixed fee for the $500,000 estate will be higher than the one for the $2 million estates.
In sum, a seasoned probate attorney will be able to quote you a fixed fee for the probate matter – making the estate’s costs a little more predictable – by looking at the specifics of the estate to come up with an appropriate fixed fee.
Speak with a Doane & Doane Attorney Today to Inquire About Fixed Fee Probate
Founded in 2003 by husband and wife legal team, Randell C. Doane and Rebecca G. Doane, Doane & Doane provides legal and financial services to families, individuals, and businesses throughout Southeast Florida.
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