How much does a probate lawyer cost?

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Question:

I'm the executor of my mother’s will. The lawyer says his fee is set by state law, as a percentage of the value of her estate. Do I have to pay that much?

Answer:

Lawyers' fees are always negotiable. If you think that the fee you were quoted seems out of line for the amount of work that needs to be done, by all means say so. The lawyer may offer to give you a discount--say, 15% off the original fee--or agree to bill you by the hour. (If you settle on an hourly rate, be sure to ask for an estimate of how many hours the lawyer thinks he will spend on the probate!)

Only a few states (Arkansas, California, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, and Wyoming) have statutes that set out probate lawyers' fees as a percentage of the value of the estate. Even in these states, the statutory fee isn't required; it's just presumed (by the probate court) to be reasonable. You're free to suggest another arrangement--or find another lawyer.

See our article on Probate Lawyers' Fees for more information.

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