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Illinois Probate Attorney Lawyer Fees
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Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies, that includes: proving in court that the deceased person’s will is valid, identifying the deceased person’s property (the “estate”), having the property appraised, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the property as the will (or state law if there is no will) dictates.
The decedent’s will also names the executor, the person responsible for carrying out the terms of the will. In addition to paying the decedent’s debts and bills and carrying out the distribution of the decedent’s estate, the executor is also responsible for paying the attorney’s fees. The executor usually is authorized to pay the attorneys fees out of the estate before distributing the assets to the beneficiaries.
Oftentimes, we get calls from people asking how much they will have to pay in attorney’s fees in an Illinois probate case. This depends on the issues surrounding the decedent’s estate and the type of fee arrangement. There are a few different fee arrangements in Illinois probate cases: an hourly fee, a flat fee, and a contingency fee.
Most Illinois probate attorneys charge hourly. An hourly rate is the amount the attorney charges the client for every hour he or she works on your case. The total cost depends on how long the case lasts.
Probate attorneys can pretty much tell you how long it’s going to take for them to open a probate estate (have an initial client meeting, prepare the documents and get them signed, go to court), and can also pretty much tell you how long it’s going to take to close out an estate.
The amount of work that needs to be done in between the opening and closing of the estate is not always so easy to predict. Probate cases can be unpredictable because it’s impossible to know every issue that might come up.
If you have a decedent with complicated assets or litigious family members, or an executor or administrator who needs a lot of guidance, then the ongoing administration probably will cost a lot.
On the other hand, in a “typical” scenario, the executor might handle most of the ongoing administration, and only call the attorney with an occasional question, resulting in a few extra hours in attorney’s fees.
All that said, we find that lawyer fees for most probate cases are somewhere between $2,500 and $5,000. Often attorneys don’t take a fee until the case is over if they have been chosen by the executor to represent the estate.
In addition to the attorney’s hourly fee, there are certain costs, such as court costs for filing the various documents required throughout the case, that the attorney may have you to pay upfront before they even begin working on your case.
A contingency fee is a percentage of what a client “wins.” In probate cases, it would be a percentage of what someone gets from the estate. Although contingency fee agreements are not very common in probate cases, it may be appropriate in the case of a contested will, where it is uncertain whether any money will be won.
Contingency fees can be anywhere from 33% to 40% of what’s recovered. If nothing is recovered, there is no fee. If the attorney is working on a contingency fee basis, he or she usually pays all the court costs upfront and gets reimbursed out of any settlement. It is very risk-reward for the lawyer.
To take a case on a contingency basis there truly must be some dispute involved with the claim. It would be unethical for a lawyer to work on a contingency basis if they were just processing a will. This usually means that they will consider taking a case on a “paid if you win” basis if there is a valid reason to contest it. You can’t contest a will just because you don’t like what it says. The most common basis for a dispute is that the person who prepared the will was not of sound mind when they did it.
A flat fee is a fee set at the beginning of the case that is negotiated by the attorney and the client and stays the same no matter how much time and effort the attorney puts into your case.
Because a probate case can be so unpredictable, most attorneys we know will not consider probate claims on a flat fee basis unless they are taking over at the end of a case that has been already filed in order to finish some minor details. Even then the scope of what they will do is limited.
If you have any questions about Illinois probate lawyer fees or anything else you can
contact us at any time. We are a law firm in Illinois that focuses on helping people find the right attorney for their case. We don’t guarantee a result, but do promise to give you the same advice we would provide to a family member or friend. All calls are free and confidential.