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Understanding Attorney Fees: Estate Planning v. Probate Administration

Estate planning and probate are two of the most important aspects of managing a person’s financial affairs after their death. However, the costs associated with these services, particularly attorney fees, can often be confusing. It’s essential to understand that attorney fees for estate plans are typically based on the type of plan you need, while fees for a probate estate are usually based on the value of the estate.

Estate Planning Attorney Fees

Estate planning involves arranging for the management of a person’s estate in the event of their death or incapacitation. This process may include drafting wills, trusts, establishing powers of attorney and nominations of guardians for minor children, and other critical end-of-life documents. To ensure your attorney can create a plan that best meets your estate planning goals, it’s crucial to fully disclose all your assets, including their value and nature.

Attorney fees for estate planning are often not based on the value of the assets but rather the complexity of the estate plan. A simple estate plan — such as a will, power of attorney, and medical directives — usually requires less legal work than a complex plan involving multiple trusts, business succession planning, or special needs planning. Because of the varying complexity levels, the attorney’s fees are often fixed and agreed upon before the work begins.

For instance, an attorney might charge a flat fee for a standard package, including a will, power of attorney, and healthcare directive. If you require more complex planning, like establishing a living trust or handling business succession issues, the attorney might charge an hourly rate or a higher flat fee. Always ensure you have a clear understanding of these fees up front, so there are no surprises down the line.

Probate Administration Attorney Fees

In contrast, probate is a legal proceeding that occurs after a person’s death. It involves proving in court that a deceased person’s will is valid, identifying and locating all lineal descendants and beneficiaries, identifying and inventorying the deceased person’s property, having the property appraised, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining property as the will (or state law, if there’s no will) directs.

Attorney fees for a probate estate are often calculated differently than those for estate planning. These can be based on a percentage of the value of the estate (guided by statutory fee schedules), flat fees based on what type of administration is needed, hourly, or a combination thereof. Additional fees are charged for assets administered outside of the probate proceeding, with the fees varying based on the complexities and requirements of the individual case. Furthermore, any additional proceedings related to the probate administration – such as a will contest, land sale, or other civil actions – will have their own, separate fee structure.

It’s worth noting that probate can be a costly process not only in terms of attorney fees but also in court costs, appraisal costs, executor’s fees, and other expenses. The relative fees and costs associated with probate administration, which can include attorney fees, court costs, appraisal costs, and executor’s fees, can be significantly higher than the costs of creating a comprehensive estate plan tailored to your individual situation and goals. Therefore, a well-crafted estate plan that helps avoid probate can save your estate money in the long run.

When it comes to attorney fees, it’s important to remember that estate planning and probate administration are two distinct processes with different fee structures. While the value of your assets doesn’t typically affect the cost of an estate plan, it can significantly impact the cost of probate. By understanding these differences, you can better anticipate the potential costs and plan your estate accordingly.

Pierce Legal Team: Jacqui Hunt, Danielle Pierce, Penelope Quade, Michelle Price

Don’t leave your estate planning to chance. The team at Pierce Legal is committed to helping you navigate these complex processes. Whether you need a simple will or a more intricate estate plan, we are here to ensure that your plan meets your unique needs and helps you preserve your legacy. The peace of mind that comes from knowing your affairs are in order is priceless. No matter the size of your estate, our experienced attorneys can guide you every step of the way, ensuring that your estate, assets, and loved ones are protected. Contact Pierce Legal today and let us help you make informed decisions for your future and the preservation of your legacy.

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