How Much Does It Cost to Probate a Will in NY?How Much Does It Cost to Probate a Will in NY

What are the costs for probate including lawyer fees?

When it comes to the probate process a question many people have is how long it will take ?  The ultimate cost varies from case to case. All New York probate matters differ in price from inception to the conclusion, and are substantially more costly for a sizable, involved estate that is contested. Fees that are usually coupled with a NY probate case include court filing fees, service process fees, costs associated with obtaining an appraisal, executor fees, legal fees, and bond premiums. The expenses will depend on:

  1. Whether There Is a Will

Although the court filing fee remains the same whether the decedent died with a will (probate) or no will (administration), when a deceased dies without a will it opens the door to several co-administrators rather than one named executor in the will. Unless the named executor in the will has a felony conviction, fails to act, or decides to renounce his or her right, the named executor has first priority to file a probate petition and become the official fiduciary of the estate. On the other hand, in the case of intestacy (no will), there might be several parties entitled to act as the administrator of the estate. There might be three adult children who would all like to take on the role. In this case, the Surrogate’s court will likely appoint all three as the co-administrators of the estate. The ultimate tab can easily become substantial as the three administrators are entitled to an independent attorney of their choice and to statutory commissions.

  1. Whether the Will is Contested, or There Are Other Disagreements.

Other than a will contest, there might be disputes associated with the accounting, breach of fiduciary duty, unlawful transfers, sale of any real property and so forth. A will contest is not the only bump in the road the executor may face. It is often the case that the beneficiaries of the estate are unhappy with the executor and the way the estate property and/or funds are handled. The executor or attorney fees may appear excessive. The executor may be taking too long to settle the estate. Assets that should have been included in the probate proceeding are not. Someone may have unlawfully transferred money out of bank accounts while the decedent was alive using a power of attorney. There might be beneficiaries that should be disinherited based on their improprieties. Disagreements between the beneficiaries equate to the estate having to expend money on lawyer fees and court fees. Most estate lawyers charge on an hourly basis. The more times lawyers head to court or file a motion, the more money they make and the less money is left for the parties in the end.

  1. The Complexity of the Estate

The decedent may have owned one or several rental producing properties in which rents must be collected or may have operated a business that needs urgent management. The estate may consist of real property outside of New York State or outside of the United States. Estate taxes might be an issue because the value of the estate exceeds the Federal and New York States estate tax exemption amounts. The last will and testament of the decedent may include dozens of beneficiaries in which some are charitable organizations. It may even be the case that the will directs that a charity be established and funded with the assets of the estate.

  1. The Value of the Estate

With more money comes more problems. The larger the estate the likeliness of a will contest and disputes among heirs or beneficiaries. People are more likely to contest a will when there is a significant amount of money on the line with hopes of winning it all or settling the case early on. It is also the case that the larger the estate the large the executor, attorney and broker fees. Although the fees of the executor or the administrator is limited to a statutory percentage, the final amount can easily become considerable if the settlement of the estate takes several years.

The fees of the estate lawyer you retain will depend on the arrangement; it can be on an hourly basis or calculated based on the percentage of the estate. The determination of whether the fees are reasonable is not derived at by the use of any specific approach, hourly or on a percentage basis, but rather by taking all relevant circumstances into consideration.

In New York, the filing fee for Surrogate’s Court also varies with size of the estate. For estates over $500,000, the filing fee is $1,250.00.  For estates more than $250,000 but less than $500,000, the filing fee is $625.00.

  1. Creditors of the Estate & Other Professionals

The decedent may have owned a co-op or a condo in which they are monthly ongoing maintenance fees pending the probate of the estate. Although the decedent has passed away, the fees continue to be due with each passing month. There might be burial costs that are due and owing on behalf of the estate. It is the responsibility of the executor or the administrator of the estate to satisfy arrears and pay off creditors prior to closing out the matter. Although some creditors are entitled to priority, most are not. If the deceased had outstanding medical bills or credit card bills, the personal representative (executor or administrator) is not obligated to make payments unless a claim is filed.

Professionals who perform services for the benefit of the estate, for example an appraisal, are entitled to be compensated from the assets of the estate or by the executor. Just as executors and administrators are entitled to fees, so are lawyers and any third parties who do a service for the estate for its benefit. It is typically the case that the executor advances payments on behalf of the estate for filing fees, service costs, and other necessary expenses, and is reimbursed once the estate is settled.