My aunt left my wife with a small house in St Pete maybe worth around 225k. She has no other assets. The lawyer who drafted her will is looking to charge 7K plus to probate the will. This is inclusive of an annunciation of PR for my wife’s aunt’s sister who is in her 90ks and does not want to serve. My wife is a secondary PR on the will.
Very sorry for your loss and the passing of your aunt, please accept my condolences.
Not knowing what else may need to be done, that seems high, this is especially the case if the property was her homestead, I would keep looking.
Florida law provides for a presumptively reasonable fee to probate an estate, which is 3% of the inventory value of the estate plus any income earned during the estate administration. You can agree to a different fee, but everyone who would be affected by it must sign off. 3% of $225,000 is $6,750 and of course, there are filing fees. Only you can determine what is reasonable, but it appears that it would be in line with what the statute allows.
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Florida Statute 733.6171 discusses the reasonableness of attorney fees associated with a probate matter.
If the house at issue in this probate is considered homestead property, then its value should not be included in the determination of attorney's fees. If the house at issue is NOT homestead property then $7,000 would be in line with the terms of the statute. Your attorney should be able to quickly and easily explain whether the property that you're dealing with is homestead property or not.
If you're not satisfied with the fee that's being proposed by your current lawyer, you can try to negotiate a lower fee with the attorney, or you could contact a few other probate attorneys to get an idea of what they might charge.
I hope this helps.
The presumption of a reasonable fee is found in Fla. Stat. 733.6171(3) and the applicable portion reads as follows:
(a) One thousand five hundred dollars for estates having a value of $40,000 or less.
(b) An additional $750 for estates having a value of more than $40,000 and not exceeding $70,000.
(c) An additional $750 for estates having a value of more than $70,000 and not exceeding $100,000.
(d) For estates having a value in excess of $100,000, at the rate of 3 percent on the next $900,000.
However, please note that these values are based on estate assets. If your wife's aunt's home was homestead, then it is not an estate asset for which the value would apply above. Thus, you may want to shop around for an attorney who will offer you a reasonable hourly an hourly rate to administer this estate. This assumes a formal estate is even needed. Based on your representations above, it sounds like all that may be required is a summary administration with a tag along homestead petition to transfer the home. A more thorough review of the documents is required, of course. Good luck!
I am sorry for your loss and I hope your family is doing ok. If it's as simple of a probate as you say it is, which is impossible to discern without a consultation, $7,000 seems high to me, but it's always difficult to know what a probate proceeding will turn into. If creditors start to file claims against and estate, even if it is protected homestead property, the amount of work expands significantly. I always counsel people to find an attorney who does probate based on an hourly rate. That way, it's fair for everyone... the attorney is getting paid for the work needed to property administer the estate and the client is not paying more than necessary. Nonetheless, I would encourage you to shop around. All the probate attorneys I work with, including my office, offer free consultations so it is not going to cost you anything to interview some other attorneys and find one you feel comfortable with. Good luck with everything.
It is important that you understand I am not your attorney, you are not my client and no attorney-client relationship is established as a result of me answering this question. This answer is informational only and should not be relied upon. Legal advice requires knowledge of pertinent facts, which cannot adequately be communicated in this medium and manner. It is always best to consult legal counsel directly and have him/her study the details of your specific situation. I am licensed in Florida and Georgia only so advice in any other jurisdiction is strictly general advice and should be confirmed with an attorney licensed in that jurisdiction.
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