When a loved one passes away, you may face the overwhelming task of settling their estate. Unfortunately, for some people, juggling attorney fees on top of funeral costs and other expenses can make probate an impossible task. If this sounds like a familiar situation, you may want to look into how to probate a will without a lawyer.
What is Probate?
Put simply, probate is the process of settling an estate. Additionally, probate addresses several aspects of the decedent’s assets, debts, and distribution of property. For example, probate includes:
- Validating the will;
- Identifying, inventorying, and appraising all property;
- Paying unsettled debts and taxes; and
- Distributing property according to the will or state law.
The first, and perhaps most important, step of probate is proving the validity of a deceased person’s will and last testament. Of course, this step assumes that the individual executed a will before they died. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. If there is no will, the property is distributed to the heirs under California’s intestate succession laws.
The Pros & Cons of Probating a Will Without a Lawyer
For most executors or administrators, probating a will or administrating an estate is straightforward and requires little to no legal representation. If you are considering probating a will or administering an estate, contact us for your legal document preparation needs.
The Pros of Handling Your Own Probate
Most lawyers will tell you that probating a will without an attorney is a bad idea. Nevertheless, we have helped hundreds of people do just that, and helped save them thousands of dollars as a result. In fact, you can use our convenient online probate calculator to see how much you would save by handling probate on your own.
Additionally, handling your own probate involves collecting information to accurately complete required court forms. For example, you should collect documentation about the assets and property of the estate. This responsibility can overwhelm some people, thus influencing them to hire an attorney. However, enlisting the help of a registered legal document preparation assistant like A People’s Choice can help reduce your stress and get the job done.
The Cons of Not Hiring an Attorney for Probate
Though there are several benefits of probating a will without a lawyer, in certain situations, it may be necessary to retain counsel.
First, attorneys can provide legal representation to preserve the estate’s assets and limit liability. Therefore, in the event the will is challenged, you may want to hire an attorney. Such a challenge could involve someone claiming that the decedent did not have the mental capacity to write a will at the time of its creation. However, heirs or beneficiaries usually want to work together to close an estate. Thus, contested and complicated situations are rare.
Furthermore, if the estate involves the administration of millions of dollars or outstanding debts, an attorney would be helpful. In such cases, defending an estate without an attorney could potentially result in a void will. Subsequently, the estate’s heirs and beneficiaries may not receive the inheritance the testator desired.
The High Cost of Attorney Fees
Unfortunately, attorney fees for administering a will can be quite hefty depending on the value of the gross estate. For example, due to statutory probate fees, a probate attorney could collect at least 4% of the first $100,000, plus 3% of the next $100,000, plus 2% of the next $800,000 of the gross value. If interested, you can calculate the statutory fees in a California probate using our online probate calculator.
As you can see, the attorney fees increase along with the gross value of the estate. For example, an average California estate with a house valued at $300,000 would automatically have attorney fees of $9,000 plus additional sums allowed by the court for extraordinary service. Extraordinary attorneys’ services often pertain to the selling of real or personal property, dealing with debts, or other matters. In the simplest of estates, attorney fees often range from $10,000 to $15,000.
Fortunately, in California, the will’s executor or estate’s administrator is not required to hire an attorney if he or she believes it is in the estate’s best interest not to do so. By representing the estate, you can help put thousands of extra dollars into the beneficiaries’ pockets.
Hire A People’s Choice to Help Probate A Will or Administer an Estate
If your loved one has recently passed away and you need legal help in probating the estate, contact us. We can easily help you maneuver through the California probate process without having to hire a lawyer.
At A People’s Choice, we provide all necessary probate legal document preparation services and help you manage the probate case from beginning to end. We can help you file probate if the decedent resided or owned real property in California.
For low-cost flat-fee help preparing all documents needed to probate your loved one’s estate, call 1-800-747-2780 to speak with one of our experienced probate assistants.