The trouble with most people, as Will Rogers observed, is not that they don’t know much but that they know so much that isn’t true – New York Magazine 1978.
This quote aptly describes many people’s perception of the cost of probating a will. It is easy to confuse the relatively minuscule filing fees for probate (in New York state the fee may be $1,500 or so on a probate estate of $500,000) with executor’s fees which can be quite high, depending on the size of the estate.
The heavy lifting in the probate process is done by the executor whose job is to offer the will for probate, take an inventory of assets and liabilities, and act to protect assets for beneficiaries. Executors are responsible for paying all bills, taxes, and debts of the estate, as well as disbursing the assets under the supervision of the court. Needless to say, most executors hire an estate attorney to navigate the probate process.
As you can see, being an executor can be a lot of work. Attorneys to whom executor duties are assigned are entitled to compensation called commissions, as outlined in the New York Consolidated Laws, Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act – SCP 2307. While the fee calculation can be tricky based on the particulars of a situation, here are some estimates of what the executor fees may be for an estate of varying sizes:
As you can see, the costs can add up. That is why it is important to simplify and reduce the size of your probate estate to the extent possible, before you pass. Updating your estate plan can be daunting. So can the potential fees your survivors may have to pay.
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