The Pitfalls of DIY Probate

diy probate

The state of California determines probate attorney fee commissions based on the estate’s total value. The state of California determines probate attorney fee commissions based on the estate’s total value.

For estates valued over $150,000, but less than $25,000,000, the statutory fees for attorneys and executors in California’s probate cases are a sum of the following: 4% on the initial $100,000; 3% on the subsequent $100,000; 2% on the subsequent $800,000; 1% on the next $9,000,000; and .5% on the next $15,000,000. A reasonable amount is determined by the court for amounts above $25,000,000.

Importantly, the probate fees are the estate’s responsibility and do not require any upfront payment or obligation from the executor or administrator. While DIY probate is an option, it is not recommended for several reasons. Here are a few common probate pitfalls you may experience without the guidance of a probate attorney.

Failure to Correctly Interpret the Will

The last will and testament is a fundamental tool of estate planning. It’s a legal document allowing a person to declare what they would like the distribution of their assets to be after they pass. However, wills are not as cut and dry as many believe. In many circumstances, a will is not written as clearly as it should be, making it open to interpretation. Mistakes interpreting the will lead to legal disputes among executors and beneficiaries. Therefore, hiring an experienced probate attorney is critical. A probate lawyer has the expertise to examine the will, evaluate its legitimacy, and handle potential conflicts or disagreements. They can guide the fulfillment of legal requirements needed to validate a will.

Incorrect Filling of the Probate and Inheritance Tax Forms

Probate and inheritance tax forms are one of the most complicated parts of probate as there are numerous forms, many of which are difficult to understand. A common mistake of DIY probate involves executors failing to apply for all tax exemptions for which the estate is eligible. Without an experienced attorney, you may miss significant tax exemptions that save the estate a fortune. If tax forms are not filed and paid on time, they can accrue interest. Avoid all of these inheritance tax pitfalls by hiring a probate attorney who will know these laws and forms like the back of their hand. Your attorney will ensure this paperwork and these tax obligations are fulfilled seamlessly.

Errors in Record Keeping and Mis-Assessing Estate Debts

The executor’s job is to administer the estate and ensure the wishes of the deceased are fulfilled. Careful and accurate record-keeping during the probate process is crucial to this duty. Executors must provide evidence of all financial transactions made to and from the estate. While it may not seem important enough to record something like old furniture, paying close attention when record-keeping is crucial for all possessions.

Missing an outstanding debt during record-keeping could have significant consequences down the road. Mis-assessing estate debt may delay the administration process. Resolving disputes, negotiating with creditors, or rectifying errors can prolong the distribution of assets. Furthermore, an unpaid creditor can pursue legal action against the executor.

An attorney can prevent these issues by guiding you through tasks such as gathering assets, paying debts, and distributing inheritances to beneficiaries. Moreover, your probate attorney will ensure you comply with all legal requirements, minimizing the chance of a dispute.

We Can Help

Although costs are associated with hiring a probate attorney, their expertise can ultimately save money and time compared to DIY probate. Their knowledge of legal procedures and means of representation can help expedite the probate process and reduce the likelihood of the expensive errors and delays you may run into doing it yourself. For this reason, hiring a probate attorney is necessary and worth it; contact Law Stein Anderson to consult with an expert probate attorney today.