When a person dies, his or her estate must go through the legal process known as probate. The primary purposes of the probate process is to ensure that all of the decedent’s assets are accounted for and valued, all debts of the decedent paid, and all remaining assets transferred to the named beneficiary or legally determined heirs of the estate. A Texas probate can incur some significant costs which is one reason why people frequently incorporate probate avoidance strategies in their overall estate plan.
If an estate is required to go through formal probate, the costs involved will be greater than if the estate is eligible for one of the small estate administration options offered in Texas. A small estate in Texas may be eligible to be probated by a small estate affidavit or by muniment of title. All others, however, require formal probate. Regardless of the method used, all probate costs begin with paying a filing fee of around $200-$250.
One of the first thing the court will do when a probate petition is filed is to appoint a personal representative or executor of the estate. If a Last Will and Testament was executed prior to the death of the decedent then the person named as executor in the Will is typically appointed. Otherwise, the court will appoint a personal representative. The executor/personal representative is responsible for the day to day tasks associated with the probate process. For his or her services, the executor/PR is entitled to a fee.
Because probate usually requires knowledge of numerous different areas of the law, an executor/PR customarily retains the services of an estate planning attorney to assist throughout the probate process. The attorney who represents the executor/PR will also charge a fee for those services.
Along with the fees paid to the executor/PR and the attorney, there are frequently additional fees incurred when a professional appraiser, accountant, or investigator is needed during the probate process.
Not surprisingly, these fees can add up quickly. The amount incurred will largely depend on the value and complexity of the estate assets involved in the probate of the estate. The more valuable the estate, the more work involved and the more fees incurred. Although these costs are deducted from the estate assets, meaning they do not come out of anyone’s pocket, they diminish the overall value of the estate.
Because of the costs involved in the probate process, most people work with their estate planning attorney to incorporate strategies that decrease their estate’s exposure to probate. The more assets that pass outside of the probate process, the less work involved during probate. With less work involved, more assets are preserved for the beneficiaries or heirs of the estate.