How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost?

How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost from North Carolina Lifestyle Adventures of Frugal Mom

A probate is a special proceeding required to establish the validity of the will. It’s a proceeding in rem that’s mandatory and imprescriptible. Meaning to say, it’s binding to the whole world, and it doesn’t prescribe no matter how late it’s being initiated. Most of the time, it’s the person designated as the Executor of the Will that initiates the probate proceeding. However, it doesn’t mean that creditors or beneficiaries are barred from launching such an action. It starts with filing the petition with the respective probate court. Anyone who is expected to inherit from the deceased’s estate can submit and file the said petition in the absence of the will. 

Under Orange County law, the Executor gets paid depending on the compensation schedule and is based on the probate asset percentage. This is a huge responsibility, hence the payment cost. Part of his role is to read and understand the legal rules applicable to the probate proceeding. The Executor also needs to keep in mind the deadlines for filing the documents to the court. If he commits a mistake, he might be held personally liable.

Why are people intimidated to hire a probate lawyer?

The main reason why people are hesitant to hire a probate lawyer is that they don’t see a price tag or flat rate insight. Since they don’t know how much such a service costs, they’re afraid that they might find themselves owing in the end. However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. When you need help, consult a lawyer and directly ask how much they charge for a probate proceeding. After you agree on the price, secure a written payment agreement to protect yourself. 

Take note that it’s the decedent’s estate that pays the professional fee of the probate lawyer. It isn’t an out-of-pocket expense of the Executor. However, if the executor is the sole heir, in essence, the probate lawyer’s fee is taken from the worth of the estate that will soon belong to him. But in any other circumstance, the probate cost is taken from the estate before its proceeds are subdivided into the number of heirs.

How do probate lawyers charge for their services? 

Probate lawyers charge differently, but it could only be either of these three payment methods — by the hour, flat fee, or estate percentage. 

They also can charge differently from state to state. So you will want to look for a probate lawyer in your area. For example, if you live near Denver, you would want to search for probate litigation attorney denver.

The most common of these three is by-hour charging, where hourly rates vary depending on the location and how skilled your lawyer is. In most rural areas, the hourly charging could go as high as $150 per hour. In cities, it’s most common for lawyers to charge a minimum of $200 per hour. Take note that specialists can also set a higher price than general practitioners. You could also expect them to be more thorough and efficient. 

Aside from the hour charging, some lawyers choose to charge by setting a flat fee. Most lawyers exposed to probates can anticipate the workload volume; that’s why they can easily peg a lump sum to charge their clients. Of course, this amount is most likely proportional to the amount of work and effort they put in while working on the case. This is some of the lawyers’ response to their clients, who are more comfortable transacting with them when they know that the meter isn’t running all the time. 

If your probate lawyer quotes you a flat fee, be clear as to its coverage. Most of the time, it doesn’t include other costs like appraiser’s fees and court filing fees. And if your case is a bit complicated — like one involving a tax return or contesting a will — the quoted cost can get higher. 

Lastly, some lawyers also peg the price to a certain percentage of the estate. However, this is something that you can negotiate, as lawyers are not required to charge their services this way. You can ask them if they could be paid by the hour or through a flat fee. Though many still prefer to get paid commensurate to the work that needs to be done, everything is negotiable. 

What makes the percentage fee unreasonable?

Some people ditch this payment scheme since they deem what their probate lawyer is charging as unconscionable and inequitable. Why? Because the percentage fee they’re asking is based on the probate asset’s gross value instead of the net value. Say, for example, the estate includes a house worth $500,000, but it has a $200,000 unpaid mortgage; the probate lawyer’s fee is usually based on $500,000 and not on $300,000. 

Though it seems exorbitant, this setup is not prohibited by law. The reason behind such a scheme is that the more expensive the house (irrespective of the unpaid mortgage), the more extensive the probate paperwork is. 

However, these figures shouldn’t intimidate you. When you know you need help, consult with a probate lawyer today and negotiate the terms of the probate fees.

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