By Phillip B. Rarick, Esq., Miami Probate Attorney
A family member has died, and you are the Personal Representative or Executor named in their will. Your job is to find a probate attorney. You probably have three objectives: you want an attorney who will handle the legal tasks (1) efficiently; (2) as quickly as possible, and (3) in the least expensive way.
Efficiently and As Quickly As Possible
After gathering the necessary information and consulting with an attorney, of course you will want to know how much the probate will cost. But remember: this is only half the question: make sure you ask the other half: What legal services will the estate get for these fees?
First, and maybe most important, you should find an experienced attorney who concentrates in probate. Attorneys who specialize in probate can usually probate a case more efficiently and in less time than an attorney who has a general practice. Less time almost always translates into less fees – and less stress on you.
The attorney should give you an engagement letter that does two things: It informs you how he or she will charge the estate, and it tells you what legal services the estate will expect to receive for these fees.
In the Least Expensive Way
It is important that you know there are two basic ways an attorney charges for probate in Florida. There is a presumptive fee schedule set by Florida law or the attorney can simply charge at an hourly rate.
The presumptive fee schedule is simply that: a presumption. It is not required. You can negotiate whatever rate you want with the attorney. The presumptive rates for Formal Probate Administration are listed below. Or, it may be better for your family to simply negotiate an hourly rate.
What Type of Probate Is Needed
A key consideration in limiting costs is deciding what type of probate will accomplish the objective of transferring the estate assets to the beneficiaries in the most efficient, quickest, and most cost effective way.
Typically, the fastest and least expensive probate proceeding is Summary Administration. However, this type of administration can only be used if:
- The value of the decedent’s estate (exclusive of exempt property) does not exceed $75,000; or
- The decedent has been dead for more than two years, regardless of the size of the estate.
Attorney’s fees for Summary Administration are typically charged at an hourly rate by a Miami probate attorney. In our firm, after reviewing the will (if there is one), inventory, and death certificate, we can give you a reasonable estimate of our fees and scope of legal services.
Filing fees for Summary Administration: Filing fees are the costs paid the court to file the case. These fees are approximately $349 in Miami-Dade County. In other counties, the filing fee may be somewhat more or less.
If Summary Administration is not available, then the other option is Formal Administration. As mentioned above, Florida law provides a presumptive statutory fee schedule based upon the value of probate assets. It is as follows:
- $100,000-$1 million: 3%
- Above $1 million-$3 million: 2.5%;
- Above $3 million-$5 million : 2%.
Additional fees may be charged at an hourly rate for extraordinary services, such as sale of real estate, preparation of a tax return, if the will is contested, etc. See F.S. 733.6171
Note: The Personal Representative is also entitled to fees for his/her services. The presumptive fee rates for the Personal Representative are similar to, but not the same as, the attorney rates. See F.S. 733.617.
Filing fees for Formal Administration. These fees are $401 in Miami-Dade County. Again, in other counties, the filing fees may be slightly more or less.
Take Away Points:
1. Find an experienced attorney who concentrates in probate law.
2. Make sure you ask both parts of the question:
– How much does the probate cost?
– What legal services do you expect to receive for these fees?
3. Get an engagement letter from the attorney that addresses both points: how the attorney fees will be charged and the legal services you can expect to receive.
For consultation with a Miami probate attorney at Rarick & Beskin, P.A., call (305) 556-5209 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, see our Florida Probate Quick Reference Guide.