Posted on January 6, 2019 by Lloyd A. Welling, Esq.
The terms “Probate” and “Probate Estate Administration” are often used synonymously. The formal process by which an Executor or Administrator is appointed by the Register of Wills or other named local county office to oversee the administration of an estate for a person who has died (a Decedent), is called Probate.
The proper, timely and legal “closing” of an estate—the distribution of estate assets, the transfer and/or sale of the home or other real property, and the satisfaction of estate liabilities, taxes and other debts, is called Probate Estate Administration. If you’ve recently lost a loved one and find yourself in need of an attorney to guide you through the estate administration process, do your homework before you make any hiring decisions.
Typically, estate attorneys charge in one of three ways. The majority of estate attorneys that you speak with are going to quote you a fee based on a percentage of the overall size and value of the decedent’s estate. Namely, if the attorney says his or her fee is going to be based on five (5%) percent of the gross value of the estate and the estate is worth $200,000 that means you would be paying a legal fee of approximately $10,000. As you can see, a fee based on such a percentage can get pretty costly pretty quickly.
Some estate attorneys will tell you that they will bill you based on an hourly fee basis. Such an agreement may seem reasonable at first glance, but the problem with this type of billing arrangement is that you will quite literally have no idea what your total fee and charges are going to be until you get to the end of the estate administration process. Given that you will be paying an hourly rate not only for the attorneys services but also quite likely for their paralegal and other office staff as well, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise when you get your final billing invoice.
Finally, some estate attorneys will charge based on a flat fee arrangement. That does not mean that they charge one set rate for every estate they handle. What it means is that they will look at the nature of the estate in question, i.e. how large is it, what kind of assets are in the estate, how many heirs there are, how well do the heirs get along, etc., and quote a fee based on their experience and the time that they anticipate will be involved in handling the matter. Of course the primary benefit of this kind of arrangement is that you will know in advance exactly what you are going to pay and you won’t be in for any unpleasant surprises when you get to the end of the process. Remember this, whichever arrangement you ultimately enter into, make sure you get the agreement in writing signed by the attorney.
At American Wills & Estates we have been guiding clients in Pittsburgh and throughout Western Pennsylvania through the probate estate administration process with competency, compassion and care for over 25 years. We provide the vast majority of our estate administration services on a flat fee basis and we do not expect to be paid until the administration process has been completed. Give us a call today to schedule your free legal consultation or visit our law firm online. You’ll be glad you did.