After a person dies, a probate estate may need to be opened to transfer property. To learn more about the probate process, please see our article “What Is Probate?” This article will focus on the costs associated with opening a probate estate, transferring property, and closing a probate estate. All of the costs identified in this article are paid from the funds of the person who died.
The costs of a probate estate can be divided into the following categories:
- Court costs and filing fees;
- General Legal fees;
- Surety Bond; and
- Publication Fees.
Court Costs and Filing Fees include the court costs to open the probate estate. Each county requires a filing fee to open a probate estate. The court fees can be found on the website for each county. These fees change periodically, so it is important that you look at the county website prior to opening a probate estate.
General Legal Fees includes the fees that you will pay an attorney to help administer an estate. In general, any estate that has two (2) or more heirs requires the services of an attorney. The legal fees for probate legal services varies based on a range of factors. For instance, a large estate with many different assets and many heirs or beneficiaries, will incur more legal fees than an estate in which there are only one or two major assets and one or two heirs.
The legal fees will also vary based upon whether any disputes arise between the heirs or beneficiaries. If an heir or beneficiary contests a will, the legal fees incurred will increase. Or, if an heir or beneficiary objects to the administration of the estate, or the activities that are performed by the executor, then the legal fees will increase. On the other hand, if the heirs and beneficiaries are largely in agreement and sign required documents in a timely manner, then the legal fees will be relatively modest.
Surety Bond costs are incurred most typically when there is a not a will that waives the state requirement for a bond. When a probate estate is opened, the administrator or executor is required by state law to obtain a bond. This bond is an insurance policy to protect the estate if the administrator or executor engages in fraud or misconduct. Most wills, waive this requirement for a bond. However, if a person dies without a will, a bond will be required. The cost of the bond is based upon the value of assets in the Estate. If there are many assets in the Estate, the amount of the bond amount will be. The higher the bond amount, the higher the bond premium, or cost for the bond.
Publication Fees are costs incurred in publishing notices to creditors. In general, if the probate estate is opened within two (2) years of a person’s death, the administrator or executor will need to publish a notice of the probate estate to the person’s creditors. The notice is published in a local newspaper or legal journal. You may also need to publish notice to heirs of an Estate if the heirs’ address is unknown.
An estimate of the total amount of probate costs will vary for each family. Each person has led a unique life and leaves behind a unique legacy. The attorneys at Hays Firm are available to discuss the probate process and the potential costs of the probate process.