Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

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EByrd
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Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by EByrd » Thu May 16, 2019 10:15 pm

My friend died, and I am the sole heir and the executor, in Florida. I understand that probate must be initiated within 10 days of the death. Can I/should I start the probate process on my own and then get an attorney? I am concerned about excessive fees considering the nature of the estate. I met with an attorney who said she will charge according to Florida guidelines for compensation, about 3% of the estate. I think this is a lot, for what does not look like a tremendous amount of work.

I estimate the total value to be about $1.5M : $800k in bank accounts and cd's; $200k is stock (certificates, not electronic form). $500-600K for two houses. There are no children, no debts except maybe a few doctor bills. There are two sisters, not named in the will. The will is clear that I am the sole heir. The attorney I met with is somewhat known to me as I had worked with her legal partner, now deceased. I had total confidence in the partner, but her not so much. What should I do?

123
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by 123 » Thu May 16, 2019 10:19 pm

If you are the named beneficiary with the custodian of any accounts (bank or brokerage) you should contact the respective custodian directly to transfer those assets directly to you without probate.

Find an attorney you are comfortable with. There is no requirement that the attorney, or his/her office, that drafted the will has to handle the probate.

EDITED TO ADD:

Nolo press has a lot of helpful information here https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia ... rview.html

The Nolo piece indicates that Florida attorneys are not required to follow the standard fee schedule. Negotiate.
Last edited by 123 on Thu May 16, 2019 10:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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EByrd
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by EByrd » Thu May 16, 2019 10:21 pm

Thanks for your answer. I should have put that in my post. I am not the named beneficiary for any of the bank accounts or stocks. I am most concerned about the short time frame to begin the probate process, not much time to shop around for attorneys.
Last edited by EByrd on Fri May 17, 2019 2:42 am, edited 1 time in total.

MathWizard
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by MathWizard » Thu May 16, 2019 10:34 pm

I think that you need an attorney.

A court has to certify that the will is genuine, and to recognize you as the personal representative (executor)
based upon what you have said is specified in the will.

The sisters could claim in court that you had undue influence and that the will should be invalidated, or
that one of them should be the personal representative.

If it goes to that, having the attorney would certainly be worth the money.

WhyNotUs
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by WhyNotUs » Thu May 16, 2019 10:37 pm

If you do not want to pay 3% then you better get on the horn with some probate atty's that will work by the hour. An accountant to deal with taxes is helpful as well. If the 2 sisters challenge the process, then you will be glad to have had an atty do things properly.
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by EHEngineer » Thu May 16, 2019 10:54 pm

I'm sorry for your loss.

I also suggest you get a lawyer. That's a large estate, and the sisters may want to stake a claim. In my experience the will should explicitly disinherit people, not simply fail to mention them.
Also, I believe that TOD/POD assignments on the various accounts would supercede the will; you may not be the sole beneficiary.
And finally,if you are on speaking terms with the sisters, let them take momentos from the house after you have searched it for valuable items. I may never be forgiven for donating a friend's sentimental ice cream scoop that was in storage at a family member's house for whom I was the executor.

I recommend the "Executor's Guide" by NOLO. https://store.nolo.com/products/the-exe ... -exec.html
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afan
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by afan » Fri May 17, 2019 6:17 am

Go ahead and file the initial paperwork. You don't need a lawyer to do that. Bsteiner says that probate is not difficult or burdensome in Florida. Once you do the filing you can shop for an attorney who will charge by the hour.

Most of the work should be straightforward but dealing with the two houses may be time consuming if you sell them both. If the lawyer does it for you the costs could add up.
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by andypanda » Fri May 17, 2019 6:36 am

I was in a similar situation in Virginia in 2016 and had no idea what I was doing. Make an appointment at the probate office. I did. They gave me checklists with due dates and generally walked me through the entire process. This is what they do for a living and they want it to go smoothly. :)

I was prepared to hire an attorney, but never needed one.

NotWhoYouThink
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by NotWhoYouThink » Fri May 17, 2019 6:52 am

Your original post was a little confusing - you have 2 sisters, or your father had 2 sisters?

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EByrd
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by EByrd » Fri May 17, 2019 7:10 am

My friend who died has two sisters, ages 70 and 80. They are not included in the will. My relationship with them is good. Of course, they may be disappointed (or stronger) if they expected to be included. If that were to be the case, the attorney I consulted said the will is clear and was done long enough ago that any accusation of undue influence probably wouldn't fly.

My foremost question is, can I get the ball rolling with probate myself, paying the filing fees and providing the will and death certificate, and then have time to select the right attorney.

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Summit111
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Summit111 » Fri May 17, 2019 7:28 am

My siblings and I shopped attorneys when our parents passed away (separately). The original attorney that drafted their wills took great offense that we would be obtaining proposals from other lawyers. He said that it’s “Traditional” to allow the attorney that drafted the wills be allowed to handle probate!

We received several proposals and settled on a local attorney that charged a fixed fee we were comfortable with. On the other hand, I know of many families that just went along with the “percentage of the estate” fee and generally got ripped off.

Summit

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Gill » Fri May 17, 2019 7:42 am

EByrd wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 7:10 am
My foremost question is, can I get the ball rolling with probate myself, paying the filing fees and providing the will and death certificate, and then have time to select the right attorney.
I believe the only requirement is that the will be filed with the Circuit Court within a limited period. You shouldn't attempt to file a petition for probate yourself. I agree that the "standard" Florida Bar fees can be a bit stiff in many estates. You could run into some problems in this estate with the two sisters or dealing with two pieces of real estate so you should have competent counsel. Look for an attorney who will represent the estate on an hourly basis.
Gill
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Gill » Fri May 17, 2019 7:45 am

Summit111 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 7:28 am
My siblings and I shopped attorneys when our parents passed away (separately). The original attorney that drafted their wills took great offense that we would be obtaining proposals from other lawyers. He said that it’s “Traditional” to allow the attorney that drafted the wills be allowed to handle probate!
When I was employed by a corporate fiduciary we went to great lengths to retain the attorney who drafted the will on the theory that was the testator's wishes, although from our perspective it was just good business. There is no reason an individual has to follow that precedent and there is nothing "traditional" about it in today's cutthroat practice of law.
Gill
Cost basis is redundant. One has a basis in an investment | One advises and gives advice | One should follow the principle of investing one's principal

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Cactuscoug » Fri May 17, 2019 7:59 am

I was executor of my father's estate several years ago. The attorney that drafted the will also acted as the probate attorney. She agreed to work by the hour. Total cost: Around $1200.

Bobby206
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Bobby206 » Fri May 17, 2019 8:06 am

I would find an attorney who is focused on Florida probate law and hire them. Don't hire a discount attorney or a paralegal. Hire a probate expert. Don't mess around and take a chance on messing something up. There is way too much money at stake here.

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dm200
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by dm200 » Fri May 17, 2019 8:09 am

The cost of an attorney depends (or should depend) on how much actual work he/she needs to do. You may be able to do a lot yourself, and use the attorney only for those tasks you cannot or do not want to do.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bsteiner » Fri May 17, 2019 8:28 am

EByrd wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 10:15 pm
... I met with an attorney who said she will charge according to Florida guidelines for compensation, about 3% of the estate. I think this is a lot, for what does not look like a tremendous amount of work.

I estimate the total value to be about $1.5M : $800k in bank accounts and cd's; $200k is stock (certificates, not electronic form). $500-600K for two houses. There are no children, no debts except maybe a few doctor bills. There are two sisters, not named in the will. The will is clear that I am the sole heir. The attorney I met with is somewhat known to me as I had worked with her legal partner, now deceased. I had total confidence in the partner, but her not so much. What should I do?
Florida has a statutory schedule of presumed reasonable legal fees, which is basically 3% for smaller estates. That's for the entire estate administration, not just for probating the Will.

As previously noted, probating a Will (and doing the other court filings) in Florida is generally not particularly difficult, expensive or burdensome. We probate lots of Wills in Florida. The forms are the same throughout Florida, and they're filed electronically. Of course, that work is the same whether the estate is $100,000 or $1 million or a $100 million estate. Nevertheless, on a time basis, if the sisters don't contest the Will and there are no other disputes, the fees for the estate administration (not just the probate) should be substantially less than 3%, including the work in selling the two houses if you decide to sell them. If you're both the personal representative and the sole beneficiary, there won't be any work in dealing with beneficiaries, which makes the work easier.

You'll need a lawyer for the probate filings. But to the extent you can do the legwork in the administration such as collecting the bank accounts and paying the medical bills, that will reduce the legal fees if the law firm is working on a time basis.
Gill wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 7:45 am
...
When I was employed by a corporate fiduciary we went to great lengths to retain the attorney who drafted the will on the theory that was the testator's wishes, although from our perspective it was just good business. There is no reason an individual has to follow that precedent and there is nothing "traditional" about it in today's cutthroat practice of law.
Banks and trust companies will almost always hire the drafting attorney, since if a there was one that didn't, we would be less likely to recommend that one.
Last edited by bsteiner on Fri May 17, 2019 9:07 am, edited 1 time in total.

Rudedog
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Rudedog » Fri May 17, 2019 8:41 am

These attorneys rip you off, their secretaries and paralegals do most of the work. Pay by the hour and cap it at $ 5,000 or $ 10,000.

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EByrd
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by EByrd » Fri May 17, 2019 8:45 am

This brings me to another question. When I got started discussing the case with the attorney, and the two houses, she hastened to say she also is a real estate agent. She indicated both her attorney card and her r.e. card on her desk. I found this a bit off-putting. I have sold and bought a number of homes over my life, and I would get market appraisals from several agents before selling. I myself have a current Florida r.e. license, though I have never worked in the field. I wondered if this was a conflict of interest or acceptable practice.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Bobby206 » Fri May 17, 2019 8:46 am

Rudedog wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:41 am
These attorneys rip you off, their secretaries and paralegals do most of the work. Pay by the hour and cap it at $ 5,000 or $ 10,000.
The problem with this mentality is it might work out but typically rookie attorneys and/or attorneys who don't have enough business (why don't they have enough business?) will agree to such an arrangement. I would hire the best and not fret about the fees. Yes, paralegals do much of the paperwork in a busy law office but the attorney manages the process. Probate is an area of law that can take years if someone is not on top of things. Hire the best and save the cheapskateness for other areas of life.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Bobby206 » Fri May 17, 2019 8:48 am

EByrd wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:45 am
This brings me to another question. When I got started discussing the case with the attorney, and the two houses, she hastened to say she also is a real estate agent. She indicated both her attorney card and her r.e. card on her desk. I found this a bit off-putting. I have sold and bought a number of homes over my life, and I would get market appraisals from several agents before selling. I myself have a current Florida r.e. license, though I have never worked in the field. I wondered if this was a conflict of interest or acceptable practice.
I'd say that's a conflict and a bigger red flag. I know in some states the attorney and the executor can not get a real estate commission on the house sale within that probate they are working on. The red flag is the bigger issue. Are they a realtor or an attorney!? You want to hire the best attorney and the best Realtor. They are not likely one in the same.

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EByrd
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by EByrd » Fri May 17, 2019 8:57 am

I went to her because her father, now deceased, was my attorney for two issues. Neither was complicated, but he took great pains to explain things to me and he was very reasonable. She (now in her 50s) has been his partner for over 20 years. I guess I was naive to think she might operate in his mold. I have not signed anything or made an agreement with her. However, she does have the original copy of the will. I need to get it back as now I am sure she won't be my choice. I hope this won't be difficult. She spent two hours with me, before revealing the percentage fee. What problems might I expect to have?

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Bobby206 » Fri May 17, 2019 8:59 am

EByrd wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:57 am
I went to her because her father, now deceased, was my attorney for two issues. Neither was complicated, but he took great pains to explain things to me and he was very reasonable. She (now in her 50s) has been his partner for over 20 years. I guess I was naive to think she might operate in his mold. I have not signed anything or made an agreement with her. However, she does have the original copy of the will. I need to get it back as now I am sure she won't be my choice. I hope this won't be difficult. She spent two hours with me, before revealing the percentage fee. What problems might I expect to have?
Just be really straight forward. Just ask for the will and do not take no for an answer. She might try to bill you for her two hours work and that will be your call to pay it or not. You probably owe it to her but that's between you. She can not keep the will hostage though. Don't back down. It's YOUR will not hers. Then go get it lodged at the probate court.

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dm200
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by dm200 » Fri May 17, 2019 9:08 am

EByrd wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:57 am
I went to her because her father, now deceased, was my attorney for two issues. Neither was complicated, but he took great pains to explain things to me and he was very reasonable. She (now in her 50s) has been his partner for over 20 years. I guess I was naive to think she might operate in his mold. I have not signed anything or made an agreement with her. However, she does have the original copy of the will. I need to get it back as now I am sure she won't be my choice. I hope this won't be difficult. She spent two hours with me, before revealing the percentage fee. What problems might I expect to have?
If her hourly fees are reasonable, then I would probably go with her - for the services you need and want. if she, however, wants the higher percentage 'deal" - then ask for the will and find another attorney. No need to get nasty about it - be calm and "professional - be clear that you are not asking for free or discounted legal work, but rather a fair hourly rate for the work actually done.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bsteiner » Fri May 17, 2019 11:40 am

Bobby206 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:48 am
EByrd wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:45 am
This brings me to another question. When I got started discussing the case with the attorney, and the two houses, she hastened to say she also is a real estate agent. She indicated both her attorney card and her r.e. card on her desk. I found this a bit off-putting. I have sold and bought a number of homes over my life, and I would get market appraisals from several agents before selling. I myself have a current Florida r.e. license, though I have never worked in the field. I wondered if this was a conflict of interest or acceptable practice.
I'd say that's a conflict and a bigger red flag. I know in some states the attorney and the executor can not get a real estate commission on the house sale within that probate they are working on. The red flag is the bigger issue. Are they a realtor or an attorney!? You want to hire the best attorney and the best Realtor. They are not likely one in the same.
That's a major red flag.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bltn » Fri May 17, 2019 12:44 pm

I also think an attorney can be arranged on an hourly basis with a maximum fee , negotiated. The friend s estate, with a bank account, some stock certificates and two houses seems very simple both to administer and to probate . A 45,000 dollar probate fee is 90 hours of work for a lawyer charging 500 dollars an hour. Let that sink in.
Get the information about what is needed in a timely manner from the state probate office and then choose your lawyer after you complete the early required work.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bengal22 » Fri May 17, 2019 1:43 pm

In Ohio probate is easy and a lawyer is not needed. There are about 12 forms and 3 filing events. in your case I would be nervous about the 2 sisters. But in my FIL wanted 5k to fill out these simple forms. Each situation is different but the legal industry wants you to think it's complex.
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Bobby206 » Fri May 17, 2019 3:35 pm

bltn wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 12:44 pm
I also think an attorney can be arranged on an hourly basis with a maximum fee , negotiated. The friend s estate, with a bank account, some stock certificates and two houses seems very simple both to administer and to probate . A 45,000 dollar probate fee is 90 hours of work for a lawyer charging 500 dollars an hour. Let that sink in.
Get the information about what is needed in a timely manner from the state probate office and then choose your lawyer after you complete the early required work.
From a successful attorney's perspective why would someone who is busy with full paying cases discount their work like that? In my opinion only rookies and attorneys with modest practices would do the discounted work. Why would you want to entrust a million dollar deal to a rookie or novice!? There are way too many gotchas even in an "easy" probate case. Hire a pro!

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by JGoneRiding » Fri May 17, 2019 3:37 pm

10 days to start m?? Are you sure? I am probating in Oregon and you arent even allowed to start till 30 days. Plus can't do Jack without death cert (which is stupid since waiting kn the county for paperwork so you can go file it with the county makes no sense)

Are you sure that isn't you can not START until 10 days have lapsed? Otherwise that seems like a crazy fast requirement for grieving family.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Gill » Fri May 17, 2019 3:49 pm

bsteiner wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:28 am

Banks and trust companies will almost always hire the drafting attorney, since if a there was one that didn't, we would be less likely to recommend that one.
Yes, of course. That was my point. We wouldn't dare not retain the drafting attorney as it would spoil or relationship with that attorney and probably the entire legal community. Individuals don't have those constraints.
Gill
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by pennywise » Fri May 17, 2019 3:50 pm

Bobby206 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:46 am

The problem with this mentality is it might work out but typically rookie attorneys and/or attorneys who don't have enough business (why don't they have enough business?) will agree to such an arrangement. I would hire the best and not fret about the fees. Yes, paralegals do much of the paperwork in a busy law office but the attorney manages the process. Probate is an area of law that can take years if someone is not on top of things. Hire the best and save the cheapskateness for other areas of life.
Yes!!

I posted recently about a situation that is somewhat similar to the OP. We inherited the estate of a friend who had been ill for a long time then died in 2013 after having had extensive medical treatment at the local county public hospital, although he was uninsured.

A month ago we received a collection notice addressed to my deceased friend(!) from the hospital. The bill was for $82,000. I was horrified, since the probate was long since closed and we had transferred title to his house, brokerage accounts etc.

I contacted the attorney who handled probate and in 2 days received a copy of the certified letter he sent the county hospital informing them not only that the statute of limitations had long since passed, but also enclosing a copy of the registered letter he had sent the hospital at the time of probate requesting they submit any outstanding bills--a request which went unacknowledged for 6 years till the surprise invoice.

Moral of the story: pay a competent lawyer to do his or her job. I'm awfully glad I didn't try to save a few dollars back then. I sure would have regretted if it ended up costing me an extra eighty grand!

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Gill » Fri May 17, 2019 3:53 pm

bsteiner wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 11:40 am
Bobby206 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:48 am
EByrd wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:45 am
This brings me to another question. When I got started discussing the case with the attorney, and the two houses, she hastened to say she also is a real estate agent. She indicated both her attorney card and her r.e. card on her desk. I found this a bit off-putting. I have sold and bought a number of homes over my life, and I would get market appraisals from several agents before selling. I myself have a current Florida r.e. license, though I have never worked in the field. I wondered if this was a conflict of interest or acceptable practice.
I'd say that's a conflict and a bigger red flag. I know in some states the attorney and the executor can not get a real estate commission on the house sale within that probate they are working on. The red flag is the bigger issue. Are they a realtor or an attorney!? You want to hire the best attorney and the best Realtor. They are not likely one in the same.
That's a major red flag.
I wonder if the Florida Bar is aware of this. Seems like a major conflict of interest and in violation of the code of ethics as both an attorney and real estate agent.
Gill
Cost basis is redundant. One has a basis in an investment | One advises and gives advice | One should follow the principle of investing one's principal

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bsteiner » Fri May 17, 2019 4:31 pm

JGoneRiding wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 3:37 pm
10 days to start m?? Are you sure? I am probating in Oregon and you arent even allowed to start till 30 days. Plus can't do Jack without death cert (which is stupid since waiting kn the county for paperwork so you can go file it with the county makes no sense)

Are you sure that isn't you can not START until 10 days have lapsed? Otherwise that seems like a crazy fast requirement for grieving family.
The requirement in Florida is that if you have custody of a Will, you're supposed to file it with the court within 10 days from when you learn that the testator has died: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/ind ... 2.901.html.

As a practical matter, lawyers usually file the Will when they file the probate papers. However, if there's a dispute, or there's likely to be a dispute, the lawyer holding the Will would file it with the court to safeguard it.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bsteiner » Fri May 17, 2019 4:41 pm

Gill wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 3:53 pm
bsteiner wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 11:40 am
Bobby206 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:48 am
EByrd wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 8:45 am
This brings me to another question. When I got started discussing the case with the attorney, and the two houses, she hastened to say she also is a real estate agent. She indicated both her attorney card and her r.e. card on her desk. I found this a bit off-putting. I have sold and bought a number of homes over my life, and I would get market appraisals from several agents before selling. I myself have a current Florida r.e. license, though I have never worked in the field. I wondered if this was a conflict of interest or acceptable practice.
I'd say that's a conflict and a bigger red flag. I know in some states the attorney and the executor can not get a real estate commission on the house sale within that probate they are working on. The red flag is the bigger issue. Are they a realtor or an attorney!? You want to hire the best attorney and the best Realtor. They are not likely one in the same.
That's a major red flag.
I wonder if the Florida Bar is aware of this. Seems like a major conflict of interest and in violation of the code of ethics as both an attorney and real estate agent.
Gill
I haven't found any Florida ethics opinions on point. But here's an ethics opinion in New York, which in turn cites several others that are probably available online: http://www.nysba.org/CustomTemplates/Co ... x?id=72164.

At a minimum, it's a major red flag.

bltn
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bltn » Fri May 17, 2019 6:57 pm

Bobby206 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 3:35 pm
bltn wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 12:44 pm
I also think an attorney can be arranged on an hourly basis with a maximum fee , negotiated. The friend s estate, with a bank account, some stock certificates and two houses seems very simple both to administer and to probate . A 45,000 dollar probate fee is 90 hours of work for a lawyer charging 500 dollars an hour. Let that sink in.
Get the information about what is needed in a timely manner from the state probate office and then choose your lawyer after you complete the early required work.
From a successful attorney's perspective why would someone who is busy with full paying cases discount their work like that? In my opinion only rookies and attorneys with modest practices would do the discounted work. Why would you want to entrust a million dollar deal to a rookie or novice!? There are way too many gotchas even in an "easy" probate case. Hire a pro!
By this reasoning, the best service is determined by the highest fees. Really?

When my parents died in Alabama, default fees for estate transfer were 5% for the executor and 5% for the probate. I handled the executor duties for 0% and a lawyer with whom my father had a number of dealings handled the probate (admittedly pretty straightforward in Alabama) for around $2000, charging an hourly fee. Their estate was bigger and more complex than the one mentioned. No problems were encountered.

As mentioned above , the work to probate a 3 million dollar estate is about the same as the work for a 6 million dollar estate of similar complexity. Why would the legal probate fees be twice as much in that case?

I ve had a well respected estate lawyer in in Alabama tell me that when probating a home for us in Florida, he would find a lawyer who would do the work for an hourly fee. I can t imagine he would find an inexperience lawyer who would be incompetent.

To think that a percentage legal fee is reasonable is like thinking a percentage brokerage fee is reasonable. I don't agree with either. I can understand high professional fees for extensive work. But percentage charges don't necessarily reflect that.

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friar1610
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by friar1610 » Fri May 17, 2019 7:55 pm

WhyNotUs wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 10:37 pm
If you do not want to pay 3% then you better get on the horn with some probate atty's that will work by the hour. An accountant to deal with taxes is helpful as well. If the 2 sisters challenge the process, then you will be glad to have had an atty do things properly.
I haven't read all the posts in the thread so someone else may have also reiterated what the above poster wrote. I was executor for two estates (sole heir on one). I learned that on a fairly straightforward will you can generally do a lot better retaining a lawyer on an hourly basis vs a percentage of the estate. (Sorta like a fee-for-service financial planner vs an AUM arrangement.) But I hasten to point out that my experience was not in FL do I don't know what FL's laws/practices are.
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Bobby206
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Bobby206 » Fri May 17, 2019 9:36 pm

bltn wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 6:57 pm
Bobby206 wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 3:35 pm
bltn wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 12:44 pm
I also think an attorney can be arranged on an hourly basis with a maximum fee , negotiated. The friend s estate, with a bank account, some stock certificates and two houses seems very simple both to administer and to probate . A 45,000 dollar probate fee is 90 hours of work for a lawyer charging 500 dollars an hour. Let that sink in.
Get the information about what is needed in a timely manner from the state probate office and then choose your lawyer after you complete the early required work.
From a successful attorney's perspective why would someone who is busy with full paying cases discount their work like that? In my opinion only rookies and attorneys with modest practices would do the discounted work. Why would you want to entrust a million dollar deal to a rookie or novice!? There are way too many gotchas even in an "easy" probate case. Hire a pro!
By this reasoning, the best service is determined by the highest fees. Really?

When my parents died in Alabama, default fees for estate transfer were 5% for the executor and 5% for the probate. I handled the executor duties for 0% and a lawyer with whom my father had a number of dealings handled the probate (admittedly pretty straightforward in Alabama) for around $2000, charging an hourly fee. Their estate was bigger and more complex than the one mentioned. No problems were encountered.

As mentioned above , the work to probate a 3 million dollar estate is about the same as the work for a 6 million dollar estate of similar complexity. Why would the legal probate fees be twice as much in that case?

I ve had a well respected estate lawyer in in Alabama tell me that when probating a home for us in Florida, he would find a lawyer who would do the work for an hourly fee. I can t imagine he would find an inexperience lawyer who would be incompetent.

To think that a percentage legal fee is reasonable is like thinking a percentage brokerage fee is reasonable. I don't agree with either. I can understand high professional fees for extensive work. But percentage charges don't necessarily reflect that.
I can't speak for Alabama but in most states it's a sliding scale. So, a quick internet search would show that in California it goes like this, for example:
4% of first $100,000
3% of next $100,000
2% of next $800,000
1% above that

So a $6m estate would not be double $3m estate.

Percentage fees are made to protect the public from unscrupulous lawyers.

Yes, frequently you get what you pay for. No, not always but frequently. Cheap people dispute this theory and that's fine.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bsteiner » Sat May 18, 2019 7:02 am

bltn wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 6:57 pm
... the work to probate a 3 million dollar estate is about the same as the work for a 6 million dollar estate of similar complexity. Why would the legal probate fees be twice as much in that case? ...
The work to probate the Will (and to do the probate related forms) is the same for a $3 million estate as for a $6 million estate.

However, probating the Will (and doing the probate related forms) is usually a small part of the work in an estate administration.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bengal22 » Sat May 18, 2019 9:47 am

bsteiner wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 7:02 am
bltn wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 6:57 pm
... the work to probate a 3 million dollar estate is about the same as the work for a 6 million dollar estate of similar complexity. Why would the legal probate fees be twice as much in that case? ...
The work to probate the Will (and to do the probate related forms) is the same for a $3 million estate as for a $6 million estate.

However, probating the Will (and doing the probate related forms) is usually a small part of the work in an estate administration.
Maybe. What else is really done unless someone contests or if things aren't set up right.
"Earn All You Can; Give All You Can; Save All You Can." .... John Wesley

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bsteiner » Sat May 18, 2019 10:55 am

bengal22 wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 9:47 am
bsteiner wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 7:02 am
bltn wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 6:57 pm
... the work to probate a 3 million dollar estate is about the same as the work for a 6 million dollar estate of similar complexity. Why would the legal probate fees be twice as much in that case? ...
The work to probate the Will (and to do the probate related forms) is the same for a $3 million estate as for a $6 million estate.

However, probating the Will (and doing the probate related forms) is usually a small part of the work in an estate administration.
Maybe. What else is really done unless someone contests or if things aren't set up right.
Preparing the estate tax returns.

Making the tax elections on the estate tax returns, such as the marital deduction, alternate valuation, portability.

Obtaining appraisals.

Reviewing drafts of the appraisals.

Deciding where to allocate the GST exemption.

Selecting a fiscal year for the estate.

Coordinating with the accountant regarding the decedent's final return, the estate's income tax returns, and whether to deduct the administration expenses on the estate tax return or on the estate's income tax returns.

Dealing with any real estate or business interests.

Dealing with the beneficiaries.

Dealing with the IRAs and other retirement benefits.

Advising as to disclaimers, and preparing, filing and serving any disclaimers.

Deciding whether to accrue U.S. savings bond interest on the decedent's final return, the estate's income tax returns, or neither.

Have partnerships in which the decedent was a partner make Section 754 elections if beneficial (and if the partnership will agree or the partnership agreement requires it).

Consider QSST or ESBT where appropriate to preserve S corporation elections.

See Ed Schlesinger's 2-part checklist from the 1980s: http://www.floridaprobatecounsel.com/wp ... cklist.pdf, http://www.floridaprobatecounsel.com/wp ... cklist.pdf.

There's even an entire BNA portfolio (a 100 or so page book) on post-mortem planning that any law firm with a tax and trusts and estates practice will have: https://www.bna.com/estate-trust-administration-p7488/.

bltn
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bltn » Sat May 18, 2019 1:06 pm

bsteiner wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 10:55 am
bengal22 wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 9:47 am
bsteiner wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 7:02 am
bltn wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 6:57 pm
... the work to probate a 3 million dollar estate is about the same as the work for a 6 million dollar estate of similar complexity. Why would the legal probate fees be twice as much in that case? ...
The work to probate the Will (and to do the probate related forms) is the same for a $3 million estate as for a $6 million estate.

However, probating the Will (and doing the probate related forms) is usually a small part of the work in an estate administration.
Maybe. What else is really done unless someone contests or if things aren't set up right.
Preparing the estate tax returns.

Making the tax elections on the estate tax returns, such as the marital deduction, alternate valuation, portability.

Obtaining appraisals.

Reviewing drafts of the appraisals.

Deciding where to allocate the GST exemption.

Selecting a fiscal year for the estate.

Coordinating with the accountant regarding the decedent's final return, the estate's income tax returns, and whether to deduct the administration expenses on the estate tax return or on the estate's income tax returns.

Dealing with any real estate or business interests.

Dealing with the beneficiaries.

Dealing with the IRAs and other retirement benefits.

Advising as to disclaimers, and preparing, filing and serving any disclaimers.

Deciding whether to accrue U.S. savings bond interest on the decedent's final return, the estate's income tax returns, or neither.

Have partnerships in which the decedent was a partner make Section 754 elections if beneficial (and if the partnership will agree or the partnership agreement requires it).

Consider QSST or ESBT where appropriate to preserve S corporation elections.

See Ed Schlesinger's 2-part checklist from the 1980s: http://www.floridaprobatecounsel.com/wp ... cklist.pdf, http://www.floridaprobatecounsel.com/wp ... cklist.pdf.

There's even an entire BNA portfolio (a 100 or so page book) on post-mortem planning that any law firm with a tax and trusts and estates practice will have: https://www.bna.com/estate-trust-administration-p7488/.
I remember dealing with many of those things as my parents' executor. I am fortunate to have an exceptional accountant who helped me with the things listed that applied to my parents. Which is almost the entire list. The accountant charged an hourly rate. The estate lawyer merely probated the will.

I definitely think that if the estate attorney undertakes many of the things in the above list, the the legal fee will be deservedly high. But why would the fee be based on a percentage rather an hourly rate?

As an aside, in another life, I would have enjoyed practicing estate law. Probably that kind of tendency is one of the reasons I like this forum. :happy

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FIREchief
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by FIREchief » Sat May 18, 2019 1:25 pm

bsteiner wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 10:55 am
bengal22 wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 9:47 am
bsteiner wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 7:02 am
bltn wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 6:57 pm
... the work to probate a 3 million dollar estate is about the same as the work for a 6 million dollar estate of similar complexity. Why would the legal probate fees be twice as much in that case? ...
The work to probate the Will (and to do the probate related forms) is the same for a $3 million estate as for a $6 million estate.

However, probating the Will (and doing the probate related forms) is usually a small part of the work in an estate administration.
Maybe. What else is really done unless someone contests or if things aren't set up right.
Preparing the estate tax returns.

Making the tax elections on the estate tax returns, such as the marital deduction, alternate valuation, portability.

Obtaining appraisals.

Reviewing drafts of the appraisals.

Deciding where to allocate the GST exemption.

Selecting a fiscal year for the estate.

Coordinating with the accountant regarding the decedent's final return, the estate's income tax returns, and whether to deduct the administration expenses on the estate tax return or on the estate's income tax returns.

Dealing with any real estate or business interests.

Dealing with the beneficiaries.

Dealing with the IRAs and other retirement benefits.

Advising as to disclaimers, and preparing, filing and serving any disclaimers.

Deciding whether to accrue U.S. savings bond interest on the decedent's final return, the estate's income tax returns, or neither.

Have partnerships in which the decedent was a partner make Section 754 elections if beneficial (and if the partnership will agree or the partnership agreement requires it).

Consider QSST or ESBT where appropriate to preserve S corporation elections.

See Ed Schlesinger's 2-part checklist from the 1980s: http://www.floridaprobatecounsel.com/wp ... cklist.pdf, http://www.floridaprobatecounsel.com/wp ... cklist.pdf.

There's even an entire BNA portfolio (a 100 or so page book) on post-mortem planning that any law firm with a tax and trusts and estates practice will have: https://www.bna.com/estate-trust-administration-p7488/.
This is a very useful list. Thanks!! I've been educating myself on what needs to be done when a person dies. This list provides a great overview. As an aside, I think it also provides a nice "hit list" for those of us attempting to simplify our estates. As an example, I had a number of U.S. savings bonds when I FIREd and I decided to just liquidate them to simplify my eventual estate. Financially, I would have earned a few more $$$ in interest by holding them to maturity, but decided that I valued the incremental simplicity more than the potential financial advantage. That knocked one item off this list. I'll be spending time looking for other candidates. 8-)
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.

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bengal22
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bengal22 » Sat May 18, 2019 2:38 pm

bsteiner wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 10:55 am
bengal22 wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 9:47 am
bsteiner wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 7:02 am
bltn wrote:
Fri May 17, 2019 6:57 pm
... the work to probate a 3 million dollar estate is about the same as the work for a 6 million dollar estate of similar complexity. Why would the legal probate fees be twice as much in that case? ...
The work to probate the Will (and to do the probate related forms) is the same for a $3 million estate as for a $6 million estate.

However, probating the Will (and doing the probate related forms) is usually a small part of the work in an estate administration.
Maybe. What else is really done unless someone contests or if things aren't set up right.
Preparing the estate tax returns.

Making the tax elections on the estate tax returns, such as the marital deduction, alternate valuation, portability.

Obtaining appraisals.

Reviewing drafts of the appraisals.

Deciding where to allocate the GST exemption.

Selecting a fiscal year for the estate.

Coordinating with the accountant regarding the decedent's final return, the estate's income tax returns, and whether to deduct the administration expenses on the estate tax return or on the estate's income tax returns.

Dealing with any real estate or business interests.

Dealing with the beneficiaries.

Dealing with the IRAs and other retirement benefits.

Advising as to disclaimers, and preparing, filing and serving any disclaimers.

Deciding whether to accrue U.S. savings bond interest on the decedent's final return, the estate's income tax returns, or neither.

Have partnerships in which the decedent was a partner make Section 754 elections if beneficial (and if the partnership will agree or the partnership agreement requires it).

Consider QSST or ESBT where appropriate to preserve S corporation elections.

See Ed Schlesinger's 2-part checklist from the 1980s: http://www.floridaprobatecounsel.com/wp ... cklist.pdf, http://www.floridaprobatecounsel.com/wp ... cklist.pdf.

There's even an entire BNA portfolio (a 100 or so page book) on post-mortem planning that any law firm with a tax and trusts and estates practice will have: https://www.bna.com/estate-trust-administration-p7488/.
I guess that is why I could do a probate myself. We dealt with beneficiaries, appraised the estate, sold the real estate, and determined no tax filings were required. My only point in all this is that one needs to know what is really required for probate and determine if you do indeed need a lawyer. It's not because we were cheap but instead of spending 5k for a lawyer we did it ourself. It was stupid easy. But at least don't fall for all of the fake legal mystque invest a little time and study up.
"Earn All You Can; Give All You Can; Save All You Can." .... John Wesley

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FIREchief
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by FIREchief » Sat May 18, 2019 5:31 pm

bengal22 wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 2:38 pm
I guess that is why I could do a probate myself. We dealt with beneficiaries, appraised the estate, sold the real estate, and determined no tax filings were required. My only point in all this is that one needs to know what is really required for probate and determine if you do indeed need a lawyer. It's not because we were cheap but instead of spending 5k for a lawyer we did it ourself. It was stupid easy. But at least don't fall for all of the fake legal mystque invest a little time and study up.
Good points.

Please explain what was involved when you "appraised the estate." I understand the need to appraise real estate and similar assets for documenting stepped up basis and perhaps determining if federal or state estate taxes will be payable. I also understand the need to appraise things like collectables in order to have a basis for equitable distribution among multiple heirs. Were there other aspects to this?

I appreciate bsteiner's comments from time to time suggesting that a good estate lawyer will prepare needed estate tax returns themselves. That said, I believe that in many cases there is clearly no need for estate tax returns (due to size of the initial estate, no expected need to elect portability for a surviving spouse, etc.). If the remainder of the estate is very simple, I'm tending to agree with other posters that the need for high priced legal help in such a scenario may be questionable.

We recently liquidated our house and downsized to an apartment (see related forum thread for explanation). As empty nesters, we had little need for the liabilities of a house and saw great opportunity in getting rid of all the clutter before it ultimately became our heirs' job. A nice side benefit is that estate planning has now become dirt simple. Upon our ultimate demise, other than selling a vehicle, paying a cremation place and settling up with our landlord there may not be much else to do. I think cable and electric just turn off service one month after non-payment. I also believe that POD HSA beneficiaries can pay final medical bills tax free. This is assuming that the insurance companies even bother to track them down.
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bsteiner » Sat May 18, 2019 6:57 pm

bltn wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 1:06 pm
...
I remember dealing with many of those things [my previous long post in this thread] as my parents' executor. I am fortunate to have an exceptional accountant who helped me with the things listed that applied to my parents. Which is almost the entire list. The accountant charged an hourly rate. The estate lawyer merely probated the will.

I definitely think that if the estate attorney undertakes many of the things in the above list, the the legal fee will be deservedly high. But why would the fee be based on a percentage rather an hourly rate?

As an aside, in another life, I would have enjoyed practicing estate law. Probably that kind of tendency is one of the reasons I like this forum. :happy
The problem is that the accountant doesn't know what he/she doesn't know. That's to be expected. I don't know as much about accounting as accountants, or as much about dentistry as dentists.

Most lawyers work on a time basis. I think it's better for both the lawyer and the client.

You can always become a lawyer. I knew someone who went to law school after retiring from his previous career at around age 60. He went on to practice tax and trusts and estates law for more than 20 years. By coincidence, I knew his daughter from college.
bengal22 wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 2:38 pm
...
I guess that [the items in my previous long post in this thread] is why I could do a probate myself. We dealt with beneficiaries, appraised the estate, sold the real estate, and determined no tax filings were required. My only point in all this is that one needs to know what is really required for probate and determine if you do indeed need a lawyer. It's not because we were cheap but instead of spending 5k for a lawyer we did it ourself. It was stupid easy. But at least don't fall for all of the fake legal mystque invest a little time and study up.
A lawyer may be able to probate the Will (and do the related probate court filings) for $5,000. But a lawyer can't administer an estate for $5,000.

In many if not most states, the executors can probate the Will (and do the related probate court filings) themselves, without a lawyer. In New Jersey, the court clerks will fill out the forms. The extent to which executors can do the other tasks will vary depending on the task, and on the executor. The more that the executors can do, the less the legal fees will be.

Professor Horton says that even in California, where probating a Will is said to be difficult, many executors handled estates themselves without counsel: https://georgetownlawjournal.org/articl ... robate/pdf (see page 640, which is page 36 of the pdf document).

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Charlieville » Sat May 18, 2019 7:12 pm

This is a large estate. Being an executor is a tough job. Your statement about not appearing to being a difficult estate tells me you have no idea what you are doing. The fact there is a lot of money and two sisters in the background may be a huge problem for you and but may not be. Hire an attorney that charges by the hour. The 3 percent fee is the max fee. Hate when attorneys take the max fee even when the estate is easy. Hopefully the estate is easy. Go on attorney recommendations from friends and family not necessarily who wrote the will. Good luck.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by johnnyc321 » Sat May 18, 2019 7:18 pm

In Florida, you can run a summary administration without a lawyer if you are the sole beneficiary. Otherwise a lawyer is required because the personal representative/petitioner is representing the interests of other persons/entities and would therefore be practicing law without a license. There is case law on this exact point.

Regarding the requested 3% fee: the statute states that the percentage is only a presumed reasonable fee. That does not mean that it is reasonable or even ethical for an attorney to charge that rate for all estates. For example, a probate of an estate with a single brokerage account valued at $5,000,000 with a single beneficiary is no more difficult than the same scenario with an account valued at $100,000.

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by afan » Sun May 19, 2019 11:12 am

For the one estate for which I served as trustee and executor, tthere was an estate tax return, real estate to sell, assets to collect and bills to pay. I used a lawyer who charged by the hour. I did what I could by myself and asked for help when needed. I don't remember the exact total for legal bills but it was far less than 1% of assets.

This was done long distance, it may have been cheaper if I had lived in the same state.
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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by Gill » Sun May 19, 2019 1:16 pm

johnnyc321 wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 7:18 pm
In Florida, you can run a summary administration without a lawyer if you are the sole beneficiary. Otherwise a lawyer is required because the personal representative/petitioner is representing the interests of other persons/entities and would therefore be practicing law without a license. There is case law on this exact point.
Really? Never heard this and am curious how this is considered unauthorized practice of law. Do you have a citation?
Gill
Cost basis is redundant. One has a basis in an investment | One advises and gives advice | One should follow the principle of investing one's principal

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Re: Probate costs?--I am the sole heir and the executor

Post by bsteiner » Sun May 19, 2019 3:28 pm

Gill wrote:
Sun May 19, 2019 1:16 pm
johnnyc321 wrote:
Sat May 18, 2019 7:18 pm
In Florida, you can run a summary administration without a lawyer if you are the sole beneficiary. Otherwise a lawyer is required because the personal representative/petitioner is representing the interests of other persons/entities and would therefore be practicing law without a license. There is case law on this exact point.
Really? Never heard this and am curious how this is considered unauthorized practice of law. Do you have a citation?
I don't know about summary administration (it's only available for very small estates, and it's often not practical), but for regular (formal) estate administration, Florida indeed does require that the personal representative be represented by a lawyer in the probate or administration proceeding.

Of course, probating the Will (and filing the other probate related forms) is usually a small part of the work in an estate administration. The personal representative may do as much or as little of the other work himself/herself. Most of our clients are able to do much of the legwork (such as collecting bank and brokerage accounts, paying the debts and expenses) themselves, though they usually have lawyers do the estate tax returns and accountant do the income tax returns.

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