In this series of blogs, I am outlining various different types of probates or probate alternatives to settle an estate and their likely costs. As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, the cost is predominantly determined by the type of procedure followed. In Part One, I discussed probate as a muniment of title, which usually is the least expensive procedure. Many times that type of probate is not appropriate, though, and an independent administration is required.
What Is An Independent Administration?
An independent administration is the form of probate available when a will contains the proper legal provisions authorizing the independent administration of the estate. This means you can avoid extensive court supervision of the handling of the estate once the will has been admitted to probate.
Every well-drawn will should include these provisions for independent administration. This is a key reason to have an attorney draw up your will rather than trying to do it yourself.
Steps In An Independent Administration
- The application for probate of the will as an independent administration and request for letters testamentary is filed with the county clerk, in the county where the decedent lived.
- A citation is issued and posted at the courthouse as required by law.
- After the citation has been posted for at least ten days, the case will be set for hearing before the county judge. If requirements for the probate are met, the judge will sign an order admitting the will to probate and authorizing issuance of the letters testamentary to the executor(s).
- The clerk will then issue the letters testamentary to the executor(s).
- A notice to creditors then must be published in the newspaper of general circulation in the county where the probate occurred.
- Secured creditors (those holding liens on property) must be sent notice of the probate by certified mail, return receipt requested. Sometimes it is also wise to send notice by the same type of mail by unsecured creditors because it sets a deadline for them to file claims against the estate.
- A notice that the will has been admitted to probate must be sent to all the beneficiaries under the will, unless they have waived notice.
The final required court action usually is either:
- Filing an inventory and appraisement of the estate with the court, or filing an affidavit in lieu of filing the inventory and appraisement, which indicates the beneficiaries have received a copy of it and approved it.
If claims have been filed against the estate, the executor must deal with whether the claims must be paid or not. This can be a very complicated procedure and will run up the attorney's fees.
After valid claims have been paid and any allowances made to a surviving spouse or minor children (which again can be a complicated and expensive procedure), the executor distributes the estate to the beneficiaries.
Cost Of An Independent Administration
As you can see, even this “independent administration” procedure involves many steps and filing fees and costs. It is substantially more expensive than probate as a muniment of title. It is difficult often even to give a client a ball-park opening estimate of the cost without knowing a great deal about the estate. The numbers given below are very general figures.
The attorney’s fee for an independent administration will likely start at $1,500 to $2,000 and range upwards depending on how many beneficiaries are involved, attorney travel time, how lengthy and complicated the inventory and appraisement of the estate is, whether dealing with claims against the estate and setting aside allowances to a surviving spouse and minor children are involved, and many other factors.
The filing fee is usually about $375, and the cost of the publication of the notice to creditors varies widely depending on the city where the newspaper is located, from less than $100 to several hundred dollars. Your costs will be even higher if you need to incur other fees for obtaining and filing certified copies of the probate documents in counties other than where the probate occurred. Other costs such as certified mail to beneficiaries or creditors, and incidentals can add to the cost further.
If you would like to talk about more about probate or administration of an estate, please call Adair M. Buckner for a free initial consultation.*
*(The free consultation does not cover actual review of documents or giving legal advice on a specific situation.)
** Please remember that the cost estimates given are only general, ballpark numbers for the Amarillo area and the costs can vary widely depending on many variables in your individual situation.