Probate Is So Expensive
By Katie White
At least, that is what everyone thinks. “The State will get it all”, or, “the attorney said I have to pay 3%” are also common things we hear during consultations. (The State doesn’t get anything in Florida, by the way.) For years, we have tried to educate potential clients about the fees in probate, and that paying a lawyer based on the size of the estate isn’t the only way, and isn’t always fair.
Apparently, others agree with us. This past summer, Florida revised Section 733.6171, Florida Statutes, which requires certain disclosures to clients if the lawyer plans to charge a percentage fee based on the size of the estate. For years, lawyers could, by statute, charge 3% of the first $100,000 to $1,000,000 of the estate in fees (excluding the value of homestead). That’s right, even if an estate is simple and has just one large bank account, the lawyer can charge 3% of the account to handle the probate. So a $1,000,000 bank account, with no feuding heirs, no creditors, and no “curve balls” during the probate could yield the lawyer a $30,000 fee. To put that in perspective, an attorney who charges hourly would have to charge around $5,000 per hour to get the same amount.
Under the revised statute, attorneys charging a percentage fee must disclose, among other things, that a percentage is not a mandatory fee arrangement, that the client is not required to hire the attorney who prepared the Will, and that the client is entitled to the details of the work performed. It is one small step in holding attorneys accountable for their fees and hopefully keeping them from misleading clients into thinking that the 3% fee is the only way to hire a probate lawyer in Florida.
At Statewide Probate, we do not charge 3% of the estate, but instead charge a reasonable flat or hourly fee, as the case warrants. Our ethical obligation to charge a reasonable fee in all cases is in the forefront of our minds, always. Visit www.statewideprobate.com for a free consultation.