New York Probate Lawyer Fees
With all the information available to us on the internet, you may be surprised to learn that searches for New York probate lawyer fees do not really answer the question. Why? Because each case is so unique, it’s difficult to put a price on the process. We compiled information from our past experiences and from a few of our colleagues to bring you an outline of what to expect with New York probate lawyer fees.
We’ll try to answer for you the following common questions:
- How Much Do New York Probate Lawyers Charge?
- How Much Does a Letter of Testamentary Cost?
- How Much Does it Cost to Get Letters of Administration?
- How Much do New York Probate Lawyers Charge to Settle an Estate?
- How Much Does it Cost to Close an Estate?
How Much Do New York Probate Lawyers Charge?
Short answer: $5,000 and up, it depends.
“It depends.” No kidding. This probably isn’t the answer you’re looking for, but unfortunately it’s true. Based on our experience, New York probate lawyers fees start at $5,000 and increase depending on the complexity of the case.
What services do you want the lawyer to provide? Lawyers who only help you to get a court-appointment will charge less than those who help you for the entire probate process from start to finish. Plus, you may encounter complications with each step of the process, adding longer hours and higher bills.
Our team will analyze your case to determine whether a flat-fee price is appropriate. If the complications are predictable, we can offer you a flat-fee price. However, if your case’s complexities are difficult to estimate, we may offer you a percentage or hourly rate. Most cases that involve will contests, contested heirs, objections to accounting, or any litigation will be billed at a percentage or hourly rate.
So, what are you hiring these attorneys to do? The first step of the probate process is to receive the letters testamentary.
How Much Does a Letter of Testamentary Cost?
Short answer: $5,000 to $12,000, typically around $7,000.
Expect to pay a minimum fee of $5,000 for a lawyer to help you obtain your letters testamentary. This includes the minimum amount of work needed to gather your information, prepare the court documents, and communicate back and forth with you and the court clerks. However, this base fee will increase if your case runs into any number of complications.
Problems with the Will
If the will is of poor quality, the court may require additional documentation to prove its legitimacy. Wills that are handwritten, self-prepared, or just poorly drafted by the attorney may create problems for you in the court.
Example: Patty died leaving a will that included a $1 gift “to her husband who left her over 50 years ago.” Even though this was done out of spite, we had to spend countless hours tracking down the husband, who had moved to Central America. After working with a professional genealogist, we were able to prove to the court that the husband had long since passed away, but not until incurring thousands of dollars in fees.
Errors on the Death Certificate
Problems with the death certificate may require additional court hearings and extra work to get it corrected that can raise the cost of your probate process.
Sometimes, the certificate may have the incorrect address, marital status, or other minor detail that requires correction by the Department of Health. This should be a simple fix, but unfortunately it can take up to 8 weeks to get the accurate certificate!
Example: Robbie had a stepsister who listed herself as a daughter on Robbie’s father’s death certificate. Although Robbie and his stepsister had the same mother, they had different fathers, so the stepsister should not have been part of the probate process. But because of her mistake, the court for Robbie’s father’s estate required us to serve papers to the stepsister and set up a court hearing to handle the issue. This cost Robbie an additional several thousand dollars in legal fees.
All New York probate proceedings require that you serve notice to certain family members, beneficiaries, and other interested parties. Most cases typically have 5 or so individuals that need to be notified. However, in cases that have more, you can expect higher legal fees.
Example: One of our cases involved notifying over 70 members of the deceased’s family! Because of the vast number of people we needed to track down and contact, there was simply no way for us to quote a flat-fee, so we instead worked with a percentage fee.
Any court appearance throughout the probate process will add to your legal fees. This is because of the work involved with getting a date, notifying all parties, and preparing to appear in front of the judge. The most common reason for a court appearance is if a family member refuses to sign his or her waiver form. Usually, our team is able to estimate a flat-fee for court appearances. However, if someone actually contests or objects, you’ll have to pay an hourly rate or percentage fee structure for the litigation.
How Much Does it Cost to Get Letters of Administration?
Short answer: $5,000 to $12,000, typically around $7,000.
Courts provide letters of administration when someone dies without leaving a will or naming an executor. Typically, the process to get letters of administration is similar to the process described above for letters testamentary. The main difference has to do with the New York Administrator’s Bond, a type of insurance that protects heirs from a bad executor. This can be tricky for individuals who don’t qualify for a bond because of their low credit score or other reasons. In these cases, our team of probate lawyers could step in, obtain the bond, and proceed with the rest of the process on your behalf.
Now that we’ve gotten you appointed as executor (or administrator, and secured your bond), it’s time to move on to settling the estate.
How Much do New York Probate Lawyers Charge to Settle an Estate?
Short answer: Typically 3%, and up to 6%, of the value of the estate’s assets.
Settling an estate (also known as estate administration) typically takes over a year to complete. It involves:
- Setting up the estate’s bank account,
- Collecting and liquidating all assets,
- Organizing and paying estate debts, and
- Filing all final taxes.
You May Not Need a Lawyer for Settlement
If you are the executor and also the sole heir, or if your estate’s affairs are fairly simple, you don’t necessarily need an attorney for estate settlement. You may be able to handle this part of the process on your own to save on legal fees.
Example: We helped Paul get appointed as administrator of his wife’s estate. Since he was the sole heir to her simple assets, we advised Paul to proceed with estate administration on his own. Our team instructed him on the next steps until he felt comfortable to finish the process without our assistance.
However, do keep in mind that even in simple cases, you may want to retain a lawyer’s help because the process is rather time-consuming. This is especially true for executors who live out-of-state or abroad and can’t easily complete the process on their own.
Calculating the Percentage Fee
Attorney fees for estate settlement will vary for each case. Refer to the New York Public Administrator’s fee schedule as a ballpark estimate or rule of thumb:
- up to $750,000 of the estate assets
- on the next $500,000
- on the next $250,000
- on the next $500,000
- on the next $3,000,000
- on anything over $5,000,000
Keep in mind that these fees are absolutely customizable. If you only want to work with an attorney for certain portions of the estate administration, but can handle some pieces on your own, ask for a customized quote.
Example: Jane was left with over $1,000,000 in assets from her father, including overseas assets in Greece. Jane was able to collect most of the assets and settle the majority of the debt on her own, but she needed help setting up the estate accounts and filing final taxes (which were complicated because of the international issues). Since we didn’t help her with the entire process, we were able to work with Jane for a lower, customized quote of $7,500.
Are you still with us? By this point, about a year has passed from the time that you began the probate process, but congratulations, you’ve finally finished administering the estate! Now, on to closing the estate.
How Much Does it Cost to Close an Estate?
Short answer: $3,000 to $10,000.
The cost of closing an estate varies greatly depending on the relationship of the beneficiaries involved.
You May Not Need a Lawyer to Close a Simple Estate
If you are the executor and also the sole beneficiary, closing the estate is very simple since, as executor, you’re acting on your own behalf. Of course, even these cases become more complex if the estate is insolvent and doesn’t have the funds to pay off existing debts.
If you are the executor and have very good and close relationships with each beneficiary (such as a surviving spouse and his or her children), then you can close the estate fairly easily using simple receipt forms you can pick up from the court clerk.
If Any Doubt, Full Transparency is Best
However, the challenge with closing estates comes when there is even the slightest hint of unease or distrust among any of the beneficiaries. When these situations occur, our team always recommends that you prepare a full formal accounting of the estate to address any possible concerns about how you handled the estate funds.
Example: Pam always had a strong relationship with her siblings, until their mom passed and Pam was named executor. When the emotions of losing a loved one got mixed together with money, the siblings began to argue and lose trust in one another. Pam made sure to work with our team to make sure every detail of her estate administration was fully reported and documented, so that her siblings had full transparency into the process.
We hope you found this information about New York probate lawyer fees useful! Remember, the cost estimates provided above are based on the cases our team has encountered over the last decade that we’ve been involved in probate law. To get a custom quote on your case, don’t hesitate to contact us for a no-cost consultation.
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