In Florida, probate is necessary when the person who dies has assets that need to be distributed to the heirs and beneficiaries. Whether the decedent had a will or not, in most cases probate is required so that the assets can be legally transferred to the heirs without problems.
Under Florida law, a probate attorney has to be involved in the case and, hence, attorney fees are unavoidable. The next thing to know is that there are. no universal legal fees for probate. It all depends on the complexity of the case, the experience of the lawyer, ongoing litigation, disputes among the heirs, and so on.
How Much are Probate Costs?
The first thing to understand is that the process of probate is associated with several types of fees, which include the following:
- Lawyer fees
- Court administrative and procedural cost
The court costs themselves can vary around a few hundred dollars.
How Must are Lawyer Fees?
The major cost of probate in Florida is related to attorney fees. An attorney will represent the personal representative or custodian of the estate.
Some probate attorneys charge a flat rate and others charge by the hour for probate (described in further detail below).
Some attorneys charge a flat rate for simple probate cases. The fee usually depends on the complexity of the probate and the size of the asset.
- First, the fees depend on when the decedent passed away.
- If the deceased passed away more than 24 months ago and there are no disputes among the interested parties and/or no extraordinary issues, then there is typically a flat fee.
- If the decedent passed away less than 24 months ago and, again, if there are no disputes between the parties or extraordinary issues, attorney fees will vary.
- If in both the above cases, the parties concerned are not in agreement or there are extraordinary issues, then the fees can be higher as this involves a lot more work.
For example, if none of the siblings and/or spouses are in agreement with the distribution of the assets or the validity of the will, then more work is required to sort out the issues. This can result in higher expenses.
There are also probate attorneys who charge legal fees by the hour. They may charge an hourly rate, which can range from a few hundred dollars an hour.
The amount of work for most probate cases varies between 10-50 hours and the total cost will depend on the time an attorney spent on your case.
If you do not have any money to pay upfront, then the attorney will be paid from the assets of the estate.
What are Reasonable Fees for Probate?
The fees for the probate attorney are usually agreed upon during the meeting between the personal representative and the lawyer. However, Florida requires that the attorney fees be reasonable and not significantly reduce the amount of the assets to be distributed to the beneficiaries.
In some cases, if the probate attorney has exorbitant fees, then the court does have the legal authority to decrease the fees paid out to the lawyer.
In general, probate attorneys charge a certain percentage based on the value of the estate. This number is usually around three percent plus a flat fee, depending on the value of the estate. The attorney will also disclose the fees to the personal representative so that there are no issues later.
For example, if the estate is worth about $50,000, the lawyer will charge a flat fee of $2,000, but if the estate is worth $500,000, the lawyer may charge a flat fee of $3,000 plus three percent of the $500,000. This will result in a total of $18,000 in probate fees.
Further, if the probate case is complex and there are major disputes among the heirs, or if there is ongoing litigation, audits, or if the lawyer is also providing extra tax advice, the probate costs will increase.
Different probate lawyers charge different probate fees and for the client. It is important to select a probate lawyer who only charges a flat fee rather than a fee based on the value of the assets.
Additionally, you want a lawyer who is transparent about the fee structure and willing to negotiate. If you have a probate case, the best way to find out more about the fees is to consult with a Palm Beach County probate lawyer.
The initial consultation is free, and you may ask as many questions as you like. Most lawyers are flexible and willing to work with their clients.