Part 1 of 5: How much are probate attorney fees?
People often ask me how much does probate cost. The short answer is, it depends. There are five main types of expenses of administration: attorney compensation, personal representative compensation, other professional services compensation, court and administration costs and creditor claims. We will start with the attorney compensation in this article and save the others for future blogs.
Florida law does spell out what is reasonable attorney compensation, but it also states that there is no mandatory statutory fee. So the attorney compensation is negotiable between the personal representative and attorney. It is important to discuss the probate attorney fees during your consultation and feel the fees quoted are reasonable.
The Florida Probate Code provides what is “reasonable compensation” for “ordinary services” in probate estate administration. The fee starts at $1,500 for estates under $40,000 in value. For estates above $40,000 in value, it is basically 3% up to a $1M in value. Then the percentage drops to 2.5% up to $3M; 2% up to $5M; 1.5% up to $10M; and 1% for anything above $10M.
These fees only cover “ordinary services”.
Contested or complex cases that require what the Florida Probate Code calls “extraordinary services” cost extra. Extraordinary probate attorney services include, but are not limited to, litigation, will contest, adversarial proceedings, tax advise, contested creditor claims, purchase, sale or lease of real property, foreclosure defense, business advise, homestead proceedings, or any delay in payment after services are rendered, and many other services as outlined in the Probate Code.
This sounds scary, I know, but the truth is that this is designed by the legislature to ensure that estates will not be charged unreasonable attorney fees in probate. There is a built-in safeguard which allows any interested person to request judicial review of the attorney compensation in any case. The judge then decides to increase or decrease the attorney compensation based on several factors including, but not limited to, how well the attorney did in handling the case and the complexity of the estate.