Minimizing Probate Fees

September 1, 2013

Clients often ask how to ensure the efficient and cost-effective administration of their estates. While certain variables are out of your control, here are some steps you can take to ensure that your beneficiaries receive more of your Estate, and the lawyers receive less:

 

  1. Get a Will that is prepared by a knowledgeable estate planning lawyer (self-made Wills and form Wills from the internet inevitably result in higher lawyers' fees because they are not properly drafted);

  2. Avoid flat-fee or percentage-fee payment to lawyers (paying hourly ensures you are only paying for what you receive);

  3. Limit the number of beneficiaries (your Executor is answerable to every beneficiary in your Will, and even many small bequests can result in increased fees);

  4. Limit specific gifts and bequests (individual items given to beneficiaries inevitably create more work for the Executor and lawyer);

  5. No Revocable Living Trusts (many people purchases these Trusts to avoid probate and save taxes and lawyers' fees, but they usually accomplish none of the above);

  6. Give percentages or shares to beneficiaries, not specific dollar amounts (large specific bequests and gifts of cash work an undue hardship on the Executor, and increase reliance on the lawyer to resolve potential disputes with beneficiaries); and

  7. Consider lifetime gifting (this should only be done under the advice of a lawyer, but the more property given away during life, the less that needs to be administered later, especially when it comes to real estate).

 

By investing some money during your life on good legal advice, you can save your beneficiaries considerable frustration and cost later.

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