How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost?

The process of probating a will can be time-consuming and stressful. The rate to hire a probate lawyer to take care of an entire will probate can vary significantly from state to state.

What does a probate lawyer do for you? Probate lawyers work to untangle the hard-to-decipher portions of a deceased individual’s will. They usually handle the legalities of changing possession of assets and settling outstanding debts.

But do you have to have an attorney for probate? No, not necessarily.

Many people will opt to probate wills without a lawyer or only consult with a lawyer during certain parts of the probate process. Most courts will allow you to probate a will without a lawyer if you petition it early on.

Even if you do probate mostly without a lawyer, you would be wise to consult with a legal representative at least once before reporting to the court. Many probate lawyers can be paid by the hour to handle aspects of a case without taking on its entirety.

It is also important to note that the fees incurred for legal counsel can be settled with the estate’s assets. The lawyer fees should get paid off before assets are distributed to the heirs listed in the will.

How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost?

A probate lawyer’s fee has to do with where the case gets filed. Attorneys can charge a $250/hour fee in smaller towns or a $5,000 flat fee in a city. In certain states, attorneys can charge a percentage of the estate’s value.

Types of Probate Fee Arrangements

Probate lawyers have three options for how they bill their clients. For a routine probate case, they will often charge an hourly fee or a flat rate. However, hourly costs from a big law firm in a bustling city will be significantly higher than the hourly rate of a small-town attorney. The same logic applies to flat rates.

Lawyers who specialize in probate cases may also be more expensive than other options. But their expertise on the subject may be worth the extra cash, especially if the will is complicated or the probate becomes confusing.

So, asking, ‘how much does an attorney charge for probate?’ can lead to a multitude of answers, depending on where you ask.

Most locations have both big and small law firms in the area, so consider your options and the firm’s cost before proceeding with an attorney.

How do probate attorneys get paid? Generally, payments for legal counsel can come out of the estate’s value. Before dispersing the assets, courts will expect you to pay your court and legal fees and your taxes and debts.

Hourly Billing

Billing per hour is the most popular way probate lawyers receive their compensation. The rate per hour can fluctuate significantly based on factors like where the case gets filed, how much experience the lawyer has, the size of the law firm, and the details of the will that dictate how complicated the process will be.

A rate of $250 per hour would be about average for most middle-ground lawyers from smaller firms. Attorneys working in the city can expect to charge at least $350 per hour for the same case.

Flat Fee

Flat fees are another common way probate lawyers opt to receive their payments. Sometimes, lawyers will give you the option between paying them a flat fee or an hourly wage.

Flat fees remove the headache of keeping up with billable hours. However, the flat fee amount can sometimes surpass what an hourly fee would be for the same case.

Around $4,000 per case would be an average amount expected from a probate lawyer. Paying a flat fee may be expensive on the surface, but you can ask more questions without running up the costs.

Flat fees may not include court filing costs or appraiser’s fees, so it is essential to understand what the flat fee does and does not cover.

Percentage of the Estate’s Value

A more unconventional way that some probate lawyers get paid is by taking a percentage of the estate’s value. This payment option is only available in seven states: Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, California, Missouri, Wyoming, and Montana

Paying a percentage of the estate’s value is often extremely costly. The percentage comes from the gross amount of the estate, so even a small percentage can easily be thousands of dollars.

Estates worth more than one million dollars will usually have to pay the probate lawyers a percentage of the estate. Most states have ruled out this type of payment for attorneys because it was deemed unfair.

Small Estates

Small estates include any of those that are worth a hundred thousand dollars or less. Most small estates will require probate lawyers to be paid a flat fee or an hourly wage.

However, just because an estate is small doesn’t mean it will be simple to probate. Small estates still require the same processes in court to ensure the will was probated correctly and legally.

Letters of administration from the court will get used to change over ownership, and the court will expect proof of every debt payment and asset redistribution.

Most families dealing with small estates will be charged around $250/hour, depending on where the case gets filed.

Large Estates

A large estate is one that has a gross value of over $1,000,000. Most large estates are complicated to probate and can become confusing during the asset redistribution part of the process.

Those with large estates are often expected to pay an hourly rate with a larger retainer deposit to secure the attorney’s time.

Summary
Probate lawyers can cost thousands of dollars in certain areas or for certain probate situations. There are two common ways for probate lawyers to bill their clients – by hour or flat rate. Some states also allow clients to be billed a percentage of the estate’s gross value.