Probate avoidance is a common estate planning goal for many reasons. Along with making life easier on your surviving loved ones, ensuring that your estate avoids probate (or diminishing the need for probate) can also save your estate a considerable amount of money. That, in turn, means that your beneficiaries will keep more of the inheritance you intended to pass down to them. To explain why avoiding probate is a wise estate planning goal, the North Andover probate attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices discuss the costs involved in probating an estate.
What Is Probate?
Most people leave behind an estate when they die that consists of all assets, both tangible and intangible, owned by the decedent at the time of death. Probate is the legal process by which those assets are identified, located, valued, and eventually distributed to the intended beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate. Creditors of your estate are also entitled to be notified of your death and allowed to file claims against your estate during probate. Likewise, if someone who has the legal standing to do so believes that the Last Will and Testament submitted for probate is invalid, that individual can challenge the Will by initiating a will contest. A Will contest may lead to protracted and costly litigation during the probate process.
The costs involved in probating an estate can vary greatly depending on several factors, such as the value and complexity of the estate assets, the skills and abilities of the Executor or Personal Representative (the person administering the estate), and whether the estate becomes involved in litigation. Nevertheless, it helps to understand some of the possible costs involved in probate so you can better understand why avoiding probate should be one of your estate planning goals. Common probate costs include:
- Court fees. Simply filing the petition to initiate the probate process will require payment of a fee. In Massachusetts, for example, filing a petition for probate will cost $150. In New Hampshire, the court costs will depend on the value of the estate. Various additional court fees will likely be required as well, such as the fee for an estate accounting, a determination of value fee, and a closing statement fee.
- Executor/Personal Representative fees. The person who oversees the administration of an estate, either the Executor appointed in a Will or someone appointed in an intestate estate, is entitled to a reasonable fee for their services. The amount of that fee will depend on how long it takes to probate the estate as well as how complex the probate process is.
- Appraisal and other professional costs. If any of the estate assets need to be appraised (something that often happens), the estate may need to pay professional appraisal fees. Other professionals may also need to be paid.
- Accountant fees. If the estate assets are valuable and/or complex, it may be necessary to hire a professional accountant which means the estate will incur accountant fees.
- Maintenance costs. While probate is going on, probate assets must be secured and maintained. Those expenses may be relatively minor if the assets are things such as bank and investment accounts; however, they could add up if the assets involved are things such as real property or a business.
- Attorney fees. If the Executor/PR retains a probate attorney to help probate the estate, that attorney is entitled to a reasonable fee for his/her services. If the probate becomes complicated or is involved in litigation, those fees can be significant.
- Litigation fees. If someone contests the Will, or a creditor challenges a denial of a claim, the estate will become involved in litigation. The costs involved in litigation can be significant.
Contact North Andover Probate Attorneys
If you have additional questions or concerns, please contact the North Andover probate attorneys at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling our New Hampshire office at (603) 894-4141 or our Massachusetts office (978) 969-0331 to learn more or visit our website at http://dadlawoffices.com.