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This article describes the various kinds of “costs” associated with an estate after the death of a person and its administration.

There are various kinds of costs associated with an estate. There are two areas where costs play a factor.

First, the administration of the estate itself gives rise to costs. For example, there are the costs of retaining a lawyer to advice on the administration and there are the compensation costs. The costs of retaining a lawyer are normally associated with obtaining the Certificate of Appointment (formerly called “getting probate”). Some lawyers charge a flat rate for this service, others by the amount of time. Thereafter the charges are to assist with any legal questions which arise and are normally charged on a hourly rate time basis. At this stage the estate trustee and not the solicitor for the estate should be doing all the work. For doing this work, the estate trustee is entitled to be compensated. Estate trustee compensation can be a sizable amount if claimed in full. Roughly speaking in Ontario the compensation is about 5% of the gross value of the estate. Since the estate trustee is entitled to this compensation and is expected to undertake the services where the solicitor conducts these services the charges of the solicitor should be deducted from the estate trustee’s compensation so that “double dipping” is avoided.

Second, there could be litigation over the estate itself which gives rise to costs – usually settlement and legal costs. This litigation can include will interpretations, will challenges, support claims, and claims for services rendered.

The costs in dealing with estate disputes can be significant. Quite often the assumption (by client and even sometimes the solicitor) is that the estate will bear these legal costs. This is not the universal outcome and should not be assumed by either counsel or their client. How the costs will fall depends upon the nature of the dispute.

For more information on estate, trust, powers of attorney or guardianship topics please see accompanying articles. Remember these articles are provided for information only and are not meant to be legal advice. Please consult with a professional.



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