Probate fees are the compensation claimed by probate lawyers and attorneys for managing dispensation of a deceased person's estate. These may be charged as a flat rate, as hourly billing, or as a percentage of the estate, and may be subject to change depending on the duration and complexity of the probate process. In some areas, fixed rates are mandated by law. Different countries, and provinces or states within them, may have differing regulations for handling probate, estate execution, and fees for probate administration. What may be mandated in one area may be illegal in another, and before contracting the services of a probate lawyer, one should generally research local regulations on allowable probate charges.
Probate is often used to determine claims in the event that the deceased left outstanding debts. When this is filed, a court identifies assets belonging to the deceased's estate, and verifies the legal validity of the will. The executor of the estate may have to manage outstanding paperwork, handle taxes, and sell off properties belonging to the deceased. Many people hire a probate lawyer to either manage the legal aspects of estate execution, or represent claimants when dispensation of the estate is contested among two or more parties. Depending on their level of involvement in the process, lawyers may charge probate fees on varying scales. Since probate can take months or years to resolve, hourly fees can grow to be extremely high.
In many cases, even when probate fees are fixed by law, negotiations can reduce — but not eliminate — the overall costs. While the expense of the probate process itself may not be subject to change, lawyers often charge a separate rate for legal counsel, tax management, filing, and other auxiliary parts of the estate management process. Negotiating a lower rate for these services can significantly reduce cumulative probate expenses, without specifically deducting from probate fees or violating any regulations regarding fee handling.
Probate fees can be avoided in simple estate distribution cases. for instance, if no claimants dispute the execution of a will and the deceased left few to no outstanding debts, taxes, or legal issues involving personal property, funds, or real estate, the executor may be able to manage probate without the paid services of a legal professional. Many local courts and administration offices provide the necessary paperwork and instructions for filing probate, and may offer no-cost counsel for appropriate handling and filing.