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Finding the Right Probate Attorney Thursday, September 20, 2018

If one dies owning assets in his/her name alone, and the Estate requires Probate Administration, the family would be wise to find a probate attorney with lots of experience in Probate court, and one that does not shy from keeping in touch with the family.

It is not common knowledge that The California Legislator has prescribed a specific Formula to calculate the Fees of Probate Administration – which is a percentage of the GROSS value of the Estate. As an example, a $1 million dollar estate will be levied with $46,000 in Statutory Fees of administration, which are payable half to the estate representative, and half to the estate attorney. The Statutory Fees on a $2 million dollar estate are $66,000; on a $5 million dollar estate – $126,000!

Because the fees are Precisely predetermined, and do not vary between law offices or attorneys (as could be the case with other legal services which are billed hourly), what distinguishes one probate administration from another (the fees being equal) is How Efficiently the Probate Attorney is in handling the probate process, and how well they communicate with the family during this year-long process.

From inception to end, probate is about taking certain steps at certain times, and working not only with the court, but also with the asset-holders (the banks, insurance companies, brokerage firms, realtors and escrow – if real property has to be sold, etc.). Here, experience goes a long way. Being ahead of each deadline can mean closing an estate four to six months earlier than the general probate administration timeframe (of 12 to 16 months).

Since it costs no more to hire an experienced Probate Attorney, the family would be wise to interview more than one. Also, since probate administration generally spans over a year, if your Probate Attorney is not returning calls, or keeping you continuously informed about the status of your case, or is unfamiliar with the details of your case, this can mean a stressful relationship with the attorney, which results in delays, and adds acrimony to the cost of administration. If that’s how your administration begins, know that you are not stuck – you have the right (and sometimes the duty) to hire another Probate Attorney, who will complete the probate administration without delays.

Since it costs the same to hire ANY Probate Attorney to conduct the probate administration, finding the most efficient and experienced Probate Attorney, who is ahead of each filing deadline, is always in touch with the family, anticipates and resolves issues with the management of estate assets, and in managing Creditors’ Claims filed in the Estate, can offer a tremendous benefit, and soften the harshness of this process. Most importantly- it can shorten the time the family has to spend in the grips of the probate administration.

Shortening the time of probate can mean not having to pay an extra year of bond premium, or have to file an additional year of estate income tax return. In this sense, efficient administration has a tangible monetary benefit to the Estate and the heirs. And, having a cordial and collaborative relationship with the Probate Attorney over the course of a year or more provides peace of mind to the family during this very difficult time.

When it comes to Probate Attorneys, it costs no more to hire the more efficient and attentive one.

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