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Working with Your Probate Attorney

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If you find yourself facing a probate situation, you NEED to read this blog.

Potential probate clients, often ask “how much is this going to cost?” We inevitably respond with everyone’s favorite lawyer answer: “IT DEPENDS.”

There are a lot of factors that substantially impact the cost of probate proceedings:

  • If the decedent was extremely organized and has a list of all assets
  • If the ALL beneficiaries get along and actively agree
  • If the will was properly executed and self-proved
  • If the will doesn’t have complicated testamentary trust provisions
  • If the named executor(s) are qualified to serve

Those are just a few examples of issues that can greatly increase or reduce the time and monetary cost of probate. However, there are three significant factors that have a big affect on the total cost of a probate: the client’s/executor’s responsiveness to attorney communication, the beneficiary’s responsiveness to attorney requests, and the client’s ability to handle certain tasks on their own.

  1. Getting ALL beneficiaries to actively agree with the will is harder than it seems. If beneficiaries do not respond to attorney inquiries and required mailings, the time and cost for conducting the probate increases dramatically.
  2. An unresponsive client can exponentially increase costs if the attorney must make multiple attempts to get information. It’s standard practice for an attorney to bill at their hourly rate for all voicemails left and all emails sent. A client’s failure to respond to those requests exponentially increases costs because there are multiple billings for the same issue. Further, if the client does not provide the information needed for a statutory court deadline, some courts charge an extra fee for filings that are sent to the court after that deadline.
  3. Clients should also let the attorney know how much work they’re willing to take care of on their own. Texas law does not allow a non-attorney to make court appearances and submit filings in the administration of a decedent’s estate. Even though a probate attorney is required for certain aspects of a probate, there are plenty of tasks and responsibilities that a client can take care of themselves. Clients need to discuss with their attorney if they want to take care of certain things themselves or if they’d rather pay to have the attorney complete the menial tasks for them. For example, clients will often take care of things like getting an identification number for the estate from the IRS, but the attorney can take care of it if asked.

The probate process is a frustrating mash-up of “hurry up and wait.” Attorneys and clients hurry and scurry to get needed information to the court; then all parties do A LOT of waiting. Being responsive to attorney and court inquires is key to the hurry up and wait process. Just know the harder it is to get a hold of you (the executor) and the harder it is to get responses from all beneficiaries the longer the case with take and the more money it will cost to complete.

So, to quote a cliché…help us help you - stay in close communication even during the many “hurry up and wait” times found within a probate case.

If you are facing the need to file a probate case, schedule a complimentary consult today. Together, we will discuss the who, what, when, where and why of your situation.

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