What Are Some Common Costs Involved In the Probate Process?
The probate process can expensive or not depending on which costs are undertaken. In Massachusetts there’s a voluntary process that could be used if the estate is under $25000 that’s inexpensive. There are several types of fees associated, such as filing fees. There are bond fees for the personal representative to protect the estate; a bond is an assurance that the personal representative is going to act appropriately and pays expenses if the personal representative does anything wrong. There can be guardian ad litem fees for reviewing and accounting, which can get expensive. There are miscellaneous fees for purchasing death certificates and certified copies of appointment. There can be legal fees if you hire an attorney to assist. I would suggest that you do that.
There are taxes you may have to pay. You have to make sure those tax filings are done properly. In this case there could also be fees to accountants for filing of taxes. These can be expensive; the court will base the accounting fee on the size of the estate. For example, we had a conservatorship where the estate was large and just to pay for the court to review the accounting was over $1500. A good use of your money in that case.
How Long Does The Probate Process Typically Take?
Depending on the estate probate can last anywhere from six months up to a year. It’s an informal process and the court will usually close it after six months. They’ll close it out because they don’t have much to do with it after that. But, those time frames are for the formal process. It should at least take year, and ultimately takes three. The actual work of it could be done faster than that. It could be done within a six-month period if you’ve got all your preparations done and it’s a relatively easy estate. It could be done in part but then of course there is that waiting period.
Could Someone Realistically Try And Navigate Through The Probate Process On Their Own?
It’s possible for someone to navigate the probate process on their own provided it’s voluntary and a very small estate. Even there you can run into problems because sometimes when you go to the clerk’s office they’re not that helpful. We don’t do many voluntary probates, because for that process you would have to get an attorney. We’ve had several calls where people call for us to assist them in finding the paperwork that was necessary for the voluntary. We looked at it, we were reading online, and it didn’t say anything about notice to heirs in there. I’m thinking you always have to give notice. On the whole, we go down to the court and you don’t have all the paperwork. You have to go and do a notice. That’s just a case in point, where an individual would go on to court and learn that themselves but they may not know how to give the notice because there’s no instructions on that.
Even in that process, it’s sometimes better to have an attorney involved. Generally, I would not try to navigate it on my own if I weren’t an attorney because there are pitfalls. People may think, “This is not so hard, I’ll pay this person, and I’ll do this.” Then they end up in a situation where they’re sued because they paid out something they shouldn’t have to a creditor and being sued by another creditor because that second creditor had priority, sat on their bills, and not provided the proper forms to the court until day 364 of the year. That’s not stuff that people are going to be thinking about. You’re always doomed by the stuff you don’t know. I would not navigate that. I would not suggest it.
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