As executor of an estate, deciding whether to hire a lawyer for probate can be difficult. On one hand, you want to be sure you carry out your loved one’s wishes after their death. However, on the other hand, lawyers for probate are extremely costly – and often unnecessary! Believe it or not, you do not always need to hire a lawyer for probate to successfully settle an estate. In fact, there are a plethora of good reasons to choose to represent yourself during a probate case.
1. You Can Avoid High Lawyer for Probate Fees
Unfortunately, California probate by itself comes with a lengthy list of required fees. For example, the initial probate petition filing fee in most counties is $435. Then, executors will face fees for filing the petition for final distribution, hearing fees, publication fees, and more! High probate fees take money away from the estate and, in turn, the beneficiaries; therefore, you want to avoid added costs everywhere you can. Luckily, avoiding lawyer for probate fees could have a major impact on the estate’s interested parties.
Believe it or not, attorneys fees account for the largest percentage of the cost of probate. Lawyers for probate are allowed to charge a certain amount in fees based on Section 10810 of the California Probate Code. However, the court may actually increase the mandated fees depending on the size of the estate! Thus, by completing the probate process without legal representation, you can save the estate thousands of dollars. For more specific data, feel free to use our online probate calculator to determine how much you will save by avoiding hiring a lawyer for probate.
2. There Are FREE Legal Resources
That said, even if you choose not to hire an attorney, you do not have to spend thousands of dollars on other means of legal education. Instead, you can utilize the plethora of free legal resources available to you online or in person! For example, A People’s Choice’s blog is full of information for self-represented executors of estate. Additionally, there are legal guides and resources available at local law libraries to help you, as estate administrator, understand the California probate process. Plus, these guides can teach you how to represent yourself in probate court.
However, perhaps one of the most important pieces of information to research is your county probate court’s local rules. More specifically, every probate court has their own “local rules” which outline the appropriate and standard procedures specific to that court. For instance, your county court may require certain documents that other courts do not. Luckily, all of this information is available on your local court’s website. Plus, A People’s Choice is well-versed in local rules for all California counties, and we’re happy to help!
3. Many Wills Are Simple and Uncontested
Some probate situations require an attorney. For example, when a beneficiary or interested party contests a will, the court may hold a hearing on the contest. Some executors will choose to hire legal representation for this hearing. Further, sometimes debt becomes an issue for executors of estates. In these cases, a lawyer may be able to help you reject creditors’ claims you believe to be false. Ultimately, if you find your loved one’s estate too large or have trouble understanding probate law, you may benefit from hiring a lawyer for probate.
That said, many wills are incredibly simple. First, contested wills are much rarer than you’d think. Additionally, some estates can actually avoid probate altogether! For instance, for estates of a certain size, California offers “small estate” probate procedures. These legal proceedings often avoid the probate process and facilitate the distribution of assets within a 40-day period. In the cases of simple or small estates, self-representation is often a no-brainer.
4. A Legal Document Assistant Can Help
Even if you’re choosing to “DIY” probate for your family or friend’s estate, you don’t have to do it completely alone. Instead, legal document assistants such as A People’s Choice are here to help! At A People’s Choice, we have over 40 years’ experience preparing probate documents for self-represented clients. Plus, we offer low-cost, full-service assistance customizable to your needs!
Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you complete and file your legal documents and avoid hefty attorneys fees.
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