A deceased estate refers to the assets and properties that a person leaves behind after passing away. Most people prepare a will that lists how they would like their property to be distributed.
During this entire process, an estate lawyer will play a critical role in the proper execution of your will. For example, estate lawyers apply for probate on behalf of your property, identify the deceased person's assets and provide timely legal advice to the executor of your will.
Because of these critical functions, you may consider hiring an estate lawyer to represent your property when you pass away. But how much will these services cost? Estate lawyers typically charge according to the following factors.
1. The extent of advice given for your case
If your case is simple and straightforward to handle, you may end up spending less on hiring an estate lawyer. For example, having a will with clear and detailed instructions reduces the workload that your lawyer needs to carry out. Furthermore, paying off most of your debt before passing away will minimise any complications during the probate process.
In cases where disputes arise with creditors and beneficiaries, the estate's lawyer may need to spend more time representing multiple parties and protecting your property from litigation. The result is higher court costs and a lengthier legal process.
2. The probate process
Perhaps the most significant role that an estate lawyer will play is preparing for the probate process. Probate refers to a legal evaluation of your estate to clear any outstanding debts, before assigning the property to beneficiaries as outlined in your will. Your lawyer will have to plan for the court process and ensure that your estate is legally cleared for distribution as directed in your will.
Some estates lawyers charge a flat rate for the probate process, while others will categorise the fees according to how much work needs to be done.
3. Management of assets in the estate
An estates lawyer may also carry out the critical function of identifying and collecting a deceased person's assets. For example, they may locate where your home, vehicle or piece of land are after you pass away. They may also oversee your financial assets (such as investment accounts and bank accounts) until these assets are assigned to beneficiaries as outlined in your will.
If you have a large estate that requires management, you may have to spend more on lawyer costs than another person who has fewer assets. This is because identifying and managing a broad portfolio of assets will come with associated administration costs. A large estate is also more likely to undergo dispute from beneficiaries, creditors and other parties.