Probate is a legal process that involves establishing the validity of a will and transferring assets to the appropriate heirs. Another important aspect of the process is paying off any debts and estate taxes. Many people are concerned about the expenses of probate. The good news is that there are several ways to reduce the costs
Choose a Personal Representative Who Won’t Charge a Fee
One of the main costs associated with probate is a personal representative fee. This is the person who ensures all the wishes in a will are carried out and pays all debts and taxes. To cut some costs, try to find a relative or friend who will do the job without charging you a fee. Most personal representatives charge 2 to 4 percent of the value of the entire estate.
Hire an Accountant the Deceased Used Before
Estates that are large enough typically owe some taxes. That is why it may be a good idea to hire an accountant the deceased used in the past. He or she may already know some information about the assets and may charge less money.
Pay Off Debts
Before the personal representative can distribute assets to heirs, he or she must pay off the deceased person’s debts. If the deceased person owes a lot of debts, it can eat up a lot of the estate. It is important for you to pay your bills and reduce debt as much as you can right now. This will help save money in the end and shorten the probate process.
Transfer Property Outside of Probate
Another effective way to cut costs is to remove property from the estate. This will cause the value of the entire estate to go down, reducing expenses. You can remove probate property by leaving a transfer on death registration, beneficiary designations and deeds.
If you do not have ownership of certain assets upon your death, your estate will have a lower value. The less value your estate has, the fewer probate costs there will be. That’s why you may want to consider giving some of your assets as gifts to your heirs while you are still alive.
Negotiate Attorney Fees
Attorney fees make up a large portion of probate costs. After all, a Fairfield County, Connecticut probate and estate administration lawyer ensures the entire process will run smoothly and has to be adequately compensated for that. However, that does not mean you can’t negotiate a probate attorney’s fees. If the fees an attorney quotes you during the initial consultation are above your budget, don’t be afraid to talk him or her down to a lower fee. The worst thing he or she can do is say no.
Probating an estate shouldn’t have to cost a fortune. And it doesn’t have to. If you follow these tips, you can save money on probate costs and heirs can receive more from the estate.
Thank you to our contributors at Sweeney Legal, LLC for their insight into probate and estate planning.