Louisville KY Personal Injury Lawyer – Bixler Howland P.S.C.

Dispelling the myths of probate: Understanding Wills, Trusts, and Probate

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The word “probate” in legal terms simply means “the legal process that gives recognition to a will and appoints a personal representative who will administer the estate and distribute assets to the intended beneficiaries.” 

It is true that a trust can avoid probate—maybe.  Many clients who buy a revocable trust, for thousands of dollars, find, when their spouse dies, that assets that should be in the trust were never transferred to the trust.  That requires that an estate be opened. 

There are estimates on the internet and in the presentations about the cost of “probate”.  There is a filing fee collected by the clerk of the Court. In every state, documents called “petitions” need to be filed to open an estate. Lawyers prepare those. All of these filings are done on line.  In Indiana, no one needs to go to court.  In Kentucky, your attorney only will need to appear in court for a personal representative to be appointed. Once the personal representative is appointed, there are documents that need to be filed in Court on a time sensitive basis.  Attorneys are capable of handling those filings.

However, the cost of an administration of an estate depends on how much the personal representative is willing to do.  For example, if the personal representative is willing to pay all of the estate bills, set up the bank account, deal with realtors, insurance companies, and annuity brokers, the attorney doesn’t have to charge for that.  The attorney’s fee in an estate is usually an hourly rate.  How much is charged depends on how much the personal representative is willing to do—or not do.  An attorney who charges by the hour, will bill for her/his time.  The more the family does the less an attorney has to charge.  For example, if a house has to be sold and the personal representative deals with the realtor and the sale, there is less cost for an attorney.  On the other hand, if the heirs of an estate want the attorney to handle the bank account, sale of property and all matters to administer the estate, the cost is going to be higher.  It’s the old adage of you get what you pay for. I have never charged for an estate want I have seen on line is the fee for probate.  My probate fees are far less than the cost of a trust.

In both Indiana and Kentucky where I practice, the handling of most estates is a relatively routine and simple matter.  You can certainly shop attorneys to handle estates.  Ask about the fee structure.  Understand that just because an attorney wrote the will, or may have written himself/ herself in the will as the personal representative, you don’t have to use that attorney.

Do your research on the attorney you want to hire. Ask questions. Knowledge is indeed power.

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