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Packard27
Senior Contributor

Iowa farm probate lawyer fee question????

Okay guys,

 

Long story short: Longtime family lawyer is currently executing a simple, uncontested will of recently deceased patriarch. There are two adult children. The farm in question will be divided into 2 equal parts. The farm is approximately 200 acres (CSR 80) with an end result of two separate deeds. Estimated total value: $1.7 million.

 

So here is my question for all of you Ag experts who have a great deal more experience in this arena: What is a reasonable (i.e. Ballpark guess) fee for the Iowa country lawyer to charge the estate for his services?

 

Any and all insight would be most welcome, but especially if you and yours happen to be from Hawkeye/Cyclone territory.

 

Many thanks,

Packard

 

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9 Replies
sw363535
Honored Advisor

Re: Iowa farm probate lawyer fee question????

Not an answer your looking for but it can vary in Kansas from a % of value to $ per hour.  It is whatever you can negotiate.

 

"Longtime Family Lawyer" can be the most costly of all because that usually means % of the appraised value.  But I have watched families I admire ask him to make a bid up front and shop around for an hourly rate bid, then go back and require the "Family Lawyer" to match it.

 

Anyway for sure get an explanation of the costs up front.

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BA Deere
Honored Advisor

Re: Iowa farm probate lawyer fee question????

It`s been awhile, but it could be 2%, it could be a sliding scale of 4% up to $100,000 and 2% up to $1 million and 1/2% above or something like that..but not sure.  If they go by % it could be $20,000-$30,000, but if you figure $250/hr  divided by $25,000 that`s 100 hours of work, well on a uncontested simple will you would think going by the hour would be the way to go.  But gotta ask.   🙂

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Packard27
Senior Contributor

Re: Iowa farm probate lawyer fee question????

BA & SW,

 

Thanks for your thoughts. The AG Community never disappoints, although I am afraid it only confirmed what I was originally thinking. A 2% lawyer commission is going to cause a little bit of unexpected financial discomfort, won't it?

 

Nevertheless, and as my Uncle Jack used to tell me; "everybody's got to make a buck." So, why didn't I just become a small town country lawyer? Who knows, with a few gigs like this each year I could have been somebody. I could have been a contender. :smileyvery-happy

 

Tally ho,

Packard

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sw363535
Honored Advisor

Re: Iowa farm probate lawyer fee question????

Our "family friend" turned out to be a good one and we were very comfortable about the way it turned out.  He made some and got the job done.

 

Twenty years before my wife had some epilepsy surgery that was deemed "experimental" by our health insurance co.

The "friend" wrote a couple of letters that helped us solve the disagreement and save us some cash we didn't need to borrow at that time.

When the bill came he wrote "Our families have made some money together and a good life in this community.  If it is all right with you, I am enclined to call this one a favor for a friend"  followed by his Personal signature.

 

I have that framed and on my office wall for a daily reminder.  It made his bills after that digest much easier.  And while I pushed him in regard to price, we never went to anybody else.....

 

He was life long personal friend to my father and myself and  a wise man.  

 

 

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JimMeade
Veteran Advisor

Re: Iowa farm probate lawyer fee question????

Maybe $300/hr.

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erniebitne11
Frequent Contributor

Re: Iowa farm probate lawyer fee question????

It was a long time ago, but still, did you find a lawyer, and how much did his services cost?

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Packard27
Senior Contributor

Re: Iowa farm probate lawyer fee question????

Hi Ernie,

Yes we did. The law firm was out of Mason City and by coincidence, the senior partner by name was recommended by both a local manufacturer friend I knew from my high school days and also by a Sioux City lawyer friend I have known from my time at the University of Iowa. Given the complexity of the estate and stakes, the reputation of the law firm meant a great deal to us and so too did the independent recommendations coming from two relatively prosperous friends.

I wish I could give you the final amount, but I can't. What I can say is that there is a state of Iowa limit on what percent a lawyer is permitted to charge on dividing an estate (....I think it might be 2%) without the lawyer having to then provide additional justification to the Iowa bar for why his legal costs exceeded this amount. Our lawyer (of the same recommended law firm) did not go over the legal limit, but I think he was close.

In the end, one sibling divided up the multi parcel farm into two equal parts w/an amount of extra money going to the part that was appraised at a lower value. The sibling then pushed the two equal parts offer across the table and asked the other sibling to choose (Think of it as; I will cut the loaf of bread in half. You can then decide which half you want.). Once the two siblings agreed on the division, it was left to the lawyer to draw up on the contracts to make the deal final and legally correct.

I think both parties were satisfied with the final result, although the lawyer's invoiced sticker price did cause a bit of indigestion for what was really an amicable division of assets. That said, I don't think we would have done anything different. Given the stakes, the two different families, and the ages of the siblings, I think both needed a clearly separated and legally binding division of assets. You pay the best lawyer you can find to make sure what is agreed upon at the estate settlement will remain so when the time comes for the two siblings to pass on to their heirs what is theirs and only theirs...if that makes sense? 

Last observation: In my opinion, I think estate squabbles between two siblings who grew up in the same house with the same parents are probably a great deal easier to reconcile than are the same squabbles between first cousins. Postponing a division of a farm estate into the next generation seems to invite a great deal more future family problems than they might be worth.

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rsbs
Veteran Advisor

Re: Iowa farm probate lawyer fee question????

Here in MN Lawyers are not allowed to charge a percentage fee, but can inflate their hours. One twist they use is to have a "minimum fee" on certain form preparation to get around the obvious limitations that an hourly rate imposes.

One puts a $10000 "minimum fee" on the estate 706 Estate Tax Return, regardless of time spent.

Nice work if you can get it.

Finding a good lawyer is probably harder than finding a good used combine. I think lawyers are conditioned to see a part of any large sum of money as their money. They start salivating like that dog in the experiment.

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sw363535
Honored Advisor

Re: Iowa farm probate lawyer fee question????

Packard thanks very much for the followup on this conversation.  SW

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