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How Do I Select An Attorney To Help Administer A Decedent’s Estate?

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  1. If there is a probate estate to be administered (as opposed to a revocable living trust), most states set the attorney’s fees by statute. This means that every attorney who helps administer a probate estate is paid the same amount for ordinary services (e.g., filing the will, sending notice to creditors and heirs, arranging for the appointment of an executor, filing an inventory with the court, and filing a final probate court accounting and arranging for assets to be distributed to heirs).  In those circumstances, the hourly rate charged by the attorney is irrelevant.  However, probate estates often require extraordinary services – tax work, sales of assets, resolving disputes through litigation.  Those types of services are billed by the attorney at his or her hourly rates – so if choosing an attorney to assist with an estate needing these types of services means that hourly rate matters.  In many cases, the probate court must approve attorney’s fees before they can be paid.
  2. If the administration proceeds outside the probate courts via a revocable living trust, some states have similar set fee requirements, while others do not. These rules must be determined when choosing an attorney.

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