We are often asked whether we can administer a probate estate in Florida for a flat fee. A probate administration can be simple or complex, depending on a number of factors, such as the size of the estate, the number of assets, whether the assets are difficult to deal with, the number of beneficiaries, the cooperation of beneficiaries with the efficient administration of the estate, and whether there is litigation.
With simple estates and a few cooperative beneficiaries, we are often able to quote a flat attorney fee for a probate administration. Indeed, depending on the simplicity of the estate administration, we often quote a flat lawyer fee in the $2,500 to $7,500 range.
One of the most important factors in being able to quote a flat fee is whether the beneficiaries are going to insist that all formalities of a probate administration will be followed, the most important being whether we will be required to prepare formal accountings of all estate transactions. Preparing such accountings, especially where there are many transactions, is labor intensive. If beneficiaries are going to ask us questions on every single transaction, and perhaps challenge how the personal representative has performed his or her duties as personal representative, a flat fee would not be appropriate. Indeed, we have handled may probate administrations where one "black sheep" beneficiary increases expenses greatly by refusing to consent to a simple administration, asks questions on every single aspect of the administration, insists on an inventory and accounting of every single pot and pan of the decedent, and then refuses to accept certified mail so that the estate can be closed.
Years ago, we handled a probate administration on a flat fee basis with 13 beneficiaries. None would accept any certified mail, each one called up constantly to ask questions (usually the same questions over and over), and each one then challenged certain aspects of the probate administration. After a lengthy hearing, during which the probate court judge overruled every single objection that had been made, we were able to close the estate. I had given a flat fee quote of $7,500. The value of our time was approximately $60,000. Because that case lurks in the back of my mind when I see a lot of beneficiaries in an estate, especially when the beneficiaries are not close with each other and with the personal representative, sometimes I am not willing to give a flat fee quote.
The Florida Probate Code allows probate attorneys to be a paid a percentage of the assets of the probate estate, 3% of the first $1 million. In many probate estates, we are able to charge just on an hourly basis, which keeps costs and fees low if everyone is reasonably cooperative.
If would like to learn more about how probate attorneys in Florida charge for administering an estate, please contact Jeffrey Skatoff, at (561) 842-4868.Contact Us » Meet Our Attorneys »