If you’ve done your research, you know that a good probate lawyer is not cheap. So how can you start your probate case even if you can’t pay now?
How much are probate attorney fees?
Lawyer fees for the simplest probate case start at $3,000. But probate is naturally messy, since is involves family, money, death, and high emotions.
So probate fees are usually more, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars!
When to probate fees have to be paid?
Generally, lawyers require an upfront payment, or retainer, before starting work on your case. The upfront payment is usually a few thousand dollars, depending on the estimated total fees.
Many folks, understandably, just don’t have that money readily available, and ask “can probate fees be paid from the estate,” at the end?
Yes, but only under certain circumstance. Why? Because estates can be unpredictable, with many twists and turns. While you may feel certain that there’ll be plenty of funds to cover the lawyer fees, we’ve often seen:
- Unexpected mortgages or debts
- Unknown huge taxes due
- Assets aren’t worth what you expected
- Assets had a named beneficiary, and therefore not part of the estate
What to do if you can’t afford probate fees?
If you don’t have the cash on-hand to pay a lawyer’s retainer, here are some of your options to start your probate case now.
Deferred lawyer fee
Work with a lawyer who will accept a deferred fee (paid at the end, from the estate). If you’re able to find a lawyer to work with no upfront payment, expect some conditions.
For example, our office usually only accept deferred fee cases if you’ve also asked me to serve as your professional executor for the estate.
Contingent lawyer fee
Contingent fees are the ultimate “no win, no pay” arrangement. If your lawyer in unable to get your inheritance for you, then you don’t owe any fees. He only gets paid if he succeeds in getting your inheritance.
As you might expect, the trade-off is the fee will be higher than if you paid upfront: usually 1/3 of your recovered inheritance. But if you don’t have the cash to start your case otherwise, you’ll be glad this option even exists.
Contingent fee probate is limited to certain types of cases, such as:
- Will contests
- Proving kinship
- Unknown assets