Q&A with Loraine: Probate costs

Question: How much does it cost to probate a standard will? There is no land, money, or other assets in the estate to be distributed.

Loraine’s Answer: There is no set cost to probate a Will. In order to determine what offering a given Will for probate is likely to cost, you will need to contact the appropriate probate court and ask about its fees to file the appropriate Petition to Probate Will (filing fees are standardized to some extent but there are often additional costs that vary from county to county). The total cost varies depending on the number of pages of the Will and what else needs to be filed with the documents. If you intend to have an attorney help you prepare the relevant Petition and any other needed documents, which I strongly encourage, then you will need to discuss possible costs and fees with the attorney. While some probate attorneys offer fixed fees for probate work, many others will charge for actual time spent, based on the individual lawyer’s rates, plus any costs actually incurred by the attorney in working on the estate.

I also urge you to consult an attorney before you offer the Will for probate, however. If you are actually correct in saying that there are no assets (land, money, or otherwise) in the estate, you may not even need to offer the Will for probate or administer the estate. You may just need to file the original Will for informational purposes. There is generally no fee for filing a Will for informational purposes. You simply present the original of the Will to the appropriate probate court along with a certified copy of the death certificate and tell the court that you are filing it for informational purposes – not offering it for probate. If you offer the Will for probate when you really only need to file it for informational purposes only, you’ll likely be making a costly mistake. Consult with a probate attorney who can discuss the entire estate situation with you and help you decide what really needs to be done. It will be money well spent.

Key Estate Planning Takeaway: Not all Wills need to be offered for probate. If an estate truly has no significant assets, then offering the Will for probate can cause the Executor to incur unnecessary costs and liability, and it may only be necessary to comply with Georgia law by filing the original Will for informational purposes only. Before offering a Will for probate, the proposed Executor should carefully analyze the situation and choose the most appropriate path.

This “Q&A with Loraine” blog series features answers from Morgan + DiSalvo Partner Loraine DiSalvo to questions posted on www.avvo.com. A key takeaway from each exchange highlights an important facet of estate planning.

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