The Probate Process Cost: Time and Money

You’re probably already aware that probate is the process by which a court approves the inventory of an estate and the deceased person’s will upon the event of a death. What you might not know, though, is that the probate process can be expensive in terms of both money and time, often taking several months and thousands of dollars to complete, depending on the size and complexity of the person’s holdings. Here is some background information to help you as you decide how best to approach the process of probate.

How much will I pay?
Depending on where you live, the cost of probate may be different than it would be in other parts of the country. Between appraisal costs, court costs, personal representative fees, paying for a kind of insurance policy known as a surety bond, as well as legal and accounting fees, you can probably expect to pay between three and seven percent of the estate’s value. This is only a rough estimate, though, as you must also factor in any debts owed by the estate and other expenses. It is the executor’s responsibility to make sure taxes and debts are paid before probate can be granted. Contact an experienced estate planning attorney if you would like to get an estimate of how much your probate will cost.

How long will it take?

This depends on whether or not the estate’s affairs are in order. Part of the probate process involves filing taxes, paying off debts, and taking a detailed inventory of all important holdings. That means taking stock of real estate, stocks and bonds, and other valuable assets. Although these are the general requirements for filing probate, each state has its own regulations. Documents beyond the will in question vary by state and must be submitted to the probate court in a timely fashion in order to expedite the process. In general, you can expect probate to take anywhere from three to six months, although complicated cases do arise if lawsuits are filed or someone decides to dispute the will. If you have questions about filing for probate, talk to a qualified Queens estate planning lawyer.

Is there any way to avoid probate?

Yes, there are several strategies you can adopt to partially, or even completely, avoid probate. For instance, creating a living trust can help you avoid the cost of probating a will. This document places named property in the care of a trustee while the person who owns the property is still alive. Because the assets are already in trust, probate can be avoided.

Another way people avoid probate is by holding property such as houses and bank accounts jointly, as many spouses do. That way it simply passes to the second owner in the event of one owner’s death. Probate may also be avoided if the estate is relatively small, but the cutoff value varies by state. Be sure to check your state guidelines if you think your estate may be able to avoid probate.

For more information about panning your estate, contact the offices of Queens probate lawyer Richard Cary Spivack for a consultation.