The costs of probate varies depending on a number of factors including the size and complexity of the estate, whether the person died with a valid will, whether there are any disputes as to the will or any debts left behind by the decedent, and where the probate action must be filed. Common expenses involved with probating an estate include filing fees and court costs, the estate executor’s fee, attorney fees, professional fees for accountants or other necessary services, and surety bonds.
Filing fees and court costs for probating a will differ based on where the case must be filed. For example, the filing fee to probate a will is about $57.00 in Jefferson County and $47.00 in Madison County, Alabama. Along those same lines, attorney’s fees and professional service costs such as appraisers, accountants, and land surveyors have varying fees based on a variety of factors including experience, size of the estate, and complexity of their involvement.
Some costs can be avoided in probate. For example, the executor of the estate, or the decedent’s appointed or elected personal representative, is entitled to reasonable compensation for their role in the probate process. This means, the executor is entitled to compensation in an amount up to 5% of the total value of the estate. As you can imagine, this can be a large sum. However, the executor can elect to waive their right to be compensated, thereby reducing the costs of probate by their share. Additionally, a person can waive the requirement that the executor post a surety bond before being appointed to represent the estate when they draft their will. Otherwise, the probate judge may require the executor to pay for and post a bond in an amount determined by him or her.
Also, although Alabama does not have any estate taxes, there are federal estate taxes that are assessed on individuals leaving behind estates that exceed a certain value. The Internal Revenue Service states that, for 2019, individual estates larger than $11.4 million or marital estates larger than $22.8 million will be subject to federal estate taxes and gift taxes. Estates valued below those amounts will be exempt from federal estate taxes.
Although the costs of probate can vary greatly, in most cases the probate fees are able to be paid out of the estate itself before any assets are passed on to the beneficiaries. The probate process can take as few as six months or as long as several years depending on the size and complexity of the estate and any issues that may arise during the probate process. Because probating an estate can be complicated and requires many different documents and steps, it is highly recommend like you hire an experienced probate attorney to help you.