Thirty-seven years ago when I first started to practice law, most attorneys who handled estates charged a fee equal to 5% of the assets. Many people today still have that impression of what attorneys will charge to help with estates. As a result, many people are reluctant to call an attorney when a loved one dies. This office does not bill that way.
When family member dies, things are difficult – both emotionally and financially. You need to ask questions and understand what needs to be done legally. Those of you who are present clients understand that we pride ourselves in providing advice and guidance in the least expensive manner as possible.
If your assets are under $675,000 you do not need a lot of expensive legal talent. However, you will have some questions that we can help with, and some things which we can help you do more quickly because we are experience in doing them.
For a total fee of between $250 and $350, we can answer most of your questions and guide you through the legal process, generally in just one meeting in our office. During that meeting:
- We will fill out the Surrogate forms for you, call the Surrogate’s office and make an appointment for you to probate your spouse’s Will.
- Give you information as to how to transfer title to your motor vehicle and make arrangements for transfer of your auto insurance.
- We will fill out the tax forms while you are with us so that you can get all of your joint or spouse’s bank accounts released immediately. You can then leave the office with those forms, take them to the bank, and have no further worries.
- We will explain how you can complete claims for life insurance, and obtain work related benefits.
- We can help explain the stock ownership transfer process.
- We will help you understand Social Security death benefits and assist you with notifying the Social Security Administration. Most funeral directors will help you with this as a part of their services.
We will answer your other questions.
You can then leave our office with everything taken care of, or at least explained in a way that you can take the remaining steps yourself without worry. If you have other legal problems or affairs for which you need our help, we will let you know how much that might cost.
Susan J. Hoffman is the Hunterdon County Surrogate, and she is the judicial officer who probates a Will. Probating a Will means lodging it publically in Flemington. The Surrogate provides you with a certificate which shows your authority to handle your loved one’s affairs and estate. Surrogate Hoffman is one of the most accommodating public servants that we have dealt with. She will answer your questions in person or over the telephone. She will assist you in handling the probate of a Will even if an attorney is not present. Her website contains a variety of types of information and forms about estates. http://www.co.hunterdon.nj.us/depts/surrog/message.htm She has pamphlets and brochures which you can obtain.
Here at De Sapio Law Office we hope to turn the process, which can be worrisome and intimidating, into as simple a procedure as possible where you can handle most of the steps yourself if you want. We are available to do as much or as little as you ask and need. You have more important feelings to deal with. Call us for prompt and cost effective advice.
Gaetano M. De Sapio