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How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost in Georgia? Who Pays Probate Attorney Fees?

Have you just lost a loved one and need to file for probate? This can be a confusing and overwhelming process, especially when you don’t know who pays probate attorney fees. You have to follow many steps, and it’s easy to make mistakes that cost you time and money.

Hiring an experienced probate attorney is the best way to ensure your case is handled appropriately. A good attorney will guide you through the entire process and help you protect your interests. If you are looking to hire a probate lawyer, you might wonder how much they will charge you and what payment options you have.  

In this blog post, we will discuss common estate attorneys’ fees and the different payment structures they charge and provide tips on reducing these costs.

Read on to find out more:

What Are Typical Attorney Fees for Probate? How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost in Georgia?

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Typically, understanding how much does it cost to probate a will and who pays probate attorney fees are some of the biggest problems related to probate.

The higher the expenses, the fewer assets the beneficiaries will receive from the deceased’s estate.

However, it is worth mentioning that probate costs are not fixed and can be influenced by several factors, such as:

  • the county and the city the deceased lived in.
  • the size of the probate estate.
  • the experience of your attorney.
  • whether or not someone contests the entire estate distribution or a part of it.

Lawyers usually charge for probate work using one of three methods:

  • an hourly fee.
  • a flat fee.
  • a percentage of the value of the estate assets.

Hourly rates

Many probate lawyers charge hourly rates for probate or other estate administration work.

In fact, according to Martindale-Nolo Research’s 2018 survey on estate planning and administration, 6 out of 10 responders stated they paid attorneys an hourly rate.

Usually, an experienced probate attorney with more years in practice charges more than those with less experience. However, a higher hourly rate doesn’t necessarily mean higher costs. This is because, many times, a highly experienced lawyer handles a probate case more efficiently than a less experienced one.

Flat fees

32% of participants in the same survey stated that the lawyers they hired charged a single or separate flat fee for each service they provided.

This type of payment structure can be beneficial for both the client who pays probate lawyer’s fees and the attorney because it provides a level of certainty and allows both parties to budget the costs for legal services. The potential downside to a flat fee payment arrangement is that it typically will not cover any additional work that may need to be completed on the case without additional payment.

Percentage-based fees

A percent-based fee is an amount a probate lawyer charges based on the estate’s gross value, not the net one. This payment method is allowed only in a few states (such as Arkansas, California, Iowa, Florida, Missouri, and Wyoming).

Factors Influencing Probate Attorney Fees

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The decedent’s location, the complexity of the estate, the probate attorney’s experience, and the duration of the probate process are some of the factors that influence probate lawyer fees:

The complexity of the estate

The complexity of the estate plays a crucial role in determining estate attorney fees.

A more complex estate, with real estate and diverse assets such as businesses or investments in multiple states, inevitably requires more time and effort from the attorney to navigate the legal intricacies and ensure proper administration. This increased workload translates into higher attorney fees.

In contrast, more uncomplicated estates with fewer assets and straightforward liabilities may warrant less extensive legal involvement, leading to lower attorney fees.

For instance, the probate process for a small estate with a primary residence, a few bank accounts, and minimal debts are typically less demanding than that of a large estate with intricate ownership structures and complex financial dealings.

Location and experience of the lawyer

The probate attorney’s geographic location and professional experience also influence the fee structure and the amount of money you might pay.

This difference reflects the variations in living expenses and the overall cost of doing business in different locations.

Similarly, the attorney’s expertise and experience significantly impact fee structures.

More experienced attorneys with a proven track record in handling complex probate matters typically command higher rates due to their in-depth knowledge, problem-solving skills, and ability to resolve legal challenges efficiently. Their expertise can be particularly valuable in disputes among heirs, potential tax implications, or intricate asset distributions.

Duration of the probate process

The length of the probate process is also a key factor affecting attorney fees. Probate processes can vary in duration depending on many factors, such as the estate’s complexity, the court system’s efficiency, and the cooperation of beneficiaries and creditors.

Longer probate processes typically result in higher attorney fees, as the attorney is engaged for a longer period.

Do You Have to Pay Probate Fees Upfront?

In some situations, probate lawyers charge a retainer fee in advance.

Who Pays Probate Attorney Fees in Georgia?

First, it’s important to understand that in Georgia, the probate attorney represents the estate’s administrator or executor, not the estate itself. Under Georgia law, the estate does not exist separate from the personal representative.

Since the personal representative hired the lawyer, they are responsible for paying the fees. They are considered administrative expenses paid from the estate’s assets before making any distribution to the beneficiaries.

Georgia law permits estate assets to be used in several ways to pay legal fees and reimburse the appointed administrator/executor for previously paid expenses.

How that applies to a particular situation will depend on the Personal Representative’s powers:

  • if the personal representative is serving with fully expanded powers, he is allowed to reimburse and pay attorney’s fees without securing additional permission from the probate court.  It is important to note that anything less than full expanded powers may not be sufficient.
  • If the executor/administrator does not have full expanded powers, then estate assets may only be used to pay attorney’s fees with permission of the probate court. Securing this permission can be done at the beginning, middle, or end of the case. Which one makes more sense will depend on the particular situation in the case.

How to Minimize the Probate Attorney Fees?

While probate attorney fees can be significant, there are several strategies you can employ to minimize these costs and ensure you receive the most value for your legal representation.

Gathering necessary documentation

Begin by gathering and systematically organizing essential documents such as the deceased’s will, birth and death certificates, trust agreements, insurance policies, and property titles.

In addition to these primary documents, gather any records related to the deceased’s financial assets, such as bank statements, investment portfolios, tax returns, and loan agreements. This information can speed up the lawyer’s examination of the estate’s financial condition.

Proactive communication

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Promptly notify your attorney of any new assets or liabilities discovered, changes in beneficiary designations, or potential disputes among heirs.

Also, it’s essential to regularly update your attorney on any communications with the court, creditors, or other parties involved in the probate process.

This transparency ensures the attorney remains fully informed and can anticipate potential challenges or complications.

Looking for alternatives to probate if possible

There are some assets that may be able to avoid probate in Georgia. Some of the non-probate assets are:

  • Life Insurance Policy with a designated beneficiary.
  • Certificates of Deposit.
  • Bank Accounts that have a POD (Payable on Death) or TOD (Transfer on Death) listed on the account.
  • IRA, 401K with a designated beneficiary, Payable on Death or Transfer on Death on the account.
  • Real estate or land titled with other parties as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship or real estate with joint ownership.

These assets will be distributed directly from the financial institution to the designated beneficiary (e.g., surviving spouse or family members).

Final Thoughts

As you navigate the complexities of inheritance distribution, understanding who pays the probate attorney fees and the factors influencing those costs is crucial to making informed decisions and managing financial obligations.

We understand that this can be a difficult time for families, and we want to do everything possible to make it as easy as possible for you. Reach out to our office to schedule a complimentary consultation with a member of our team.


More information

Disclaimer These websites have not been reviewed by Georgia Probate Law Group and are not endorsed or even recommended by Georgia Probate Law Group. These websites are additional resources that you can use to further your general education on this topic.

Disclaimer: The information above is provided for general information only and should not be considered legal advice. Our probate attorneys provide legal advice to our clients after talking about the specific circumstances of the client’s situation. Our law firm cannot give you legal advice unless we understand your situation by talking with you. Please contact our law office to receive specific information about your situation.

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About the author

Erik J. Broel
Founder & ceo

Erik founded the firm in 2009. He sees it as his personal mission to demystify the process of handling an estate or trust, and to help people by making the complex estate process simple and accessible. He believes there is always a better way to do things, and loves finding new and innovative ways to deliver better, more effective service that solves the client’s key problem or issue, and improves the client’s life.

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