As an Alberta probate lawyer, two questions I hear most frequently are ‘why does probate take so long?’ and ‘why is probate so expensive?’ Both are questions worth asking. This article breaks down how probate fees work in Alberta, dispels some commonly-held misconceptions about probate fees, and provides insight into why probate fees can seem so expensive.
What is Probate, Anyways?
When someone passes away, in most cases, their Executor must obtain a Grant of Probate from the Alberta Surrogate Court. A Grant of Probate is a formal legal document issued by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench which approves the legitimacy and validity of the deceased’s last Will and confirms the Executor’s authority to administer the Estate. Once an Executor has obtained a Grant of Probate, they are able to access the deceased’s accounts, consolidate the Estate assets, and then distribute funds to the Estate beneficiaries.
What are the two different types of Probate Fees?
Probate fees can generally be separated into two categories: Probate Court Fees and Probate Lawyer Fees.
Probate Court Fees
While there is no inheritance tax in Canada, there are probate court filing fees that, in many cases, amount to a hidden Estate tax. The good news is that Alberta has some of the lowest probate court fees in Canada, as evidenced by the table below:
|Province||Probate Court Fee|
|British Columbia||$150.00 + $14 per $1,000.00 in excess of $50,000.00|
|Alberta||$35.00 – $525.00, depending on the value of the Estate|
|Saskatchewan||$7.00 per $1,000.00 of Estate value|
|Manitoba||$70 + $7 per $1,000.00 on Estates greater than $10,000.00|
|Ontario||$250.00 + $15.00 per $1,000.00 in excess of $50,000.00|
|New Brunswick||$5 per $1,000.00 on Estates larger than $20,000.00|
|Nova Scotia||$1,002.65 + $16.95 per $1,000.00 in excess of $100,000.00|
|Newfoundland||$60 + $6 per $1,000.00 in excess of $1,000.00|
|Prince Edward Island||$400.00 +$4.00 per $1,000.00 in excess of $100,000.00|
How much for a $500,000 Estate in Alberta vs. BC?
While provinces update their probate court fees over time, let’s compare the probate court fees for a $500,000.00 Estate in each Alberta and British Columbia, based on the numbers in the table above:
- In Alberta, the probate court fee for an Estate over $250,000.00 in value is $525.00. So to probate a $500,000.00 Estate in Alberta, the total probate court fee would be $525.00.
- In British Columbia, the probate court fee for a $500,000.00 Estate would be $6,450.00.
|Province||Probate Court Fee of $500,000 Estate|
As you can see, based on the above example it costs $5,925.00 more to probate a $500,000.00 Estate in B.C. than it does in Alberta. While you may not think your Estate is worth anywhere near $500,000.00, it’s helpful to keep in mind that with rising real estate prices in Canada, many ‘middle class’ Canadians own a home worth $400,000.00 or more that will form part of their Estate when they pass away.
Probate Lawyer Fees
Most Executors hire a lawyer to guide them through the probate process and to draft a probate application on behalf of the Estate. Probate lawyers charge the Estate a fee for their legal services. Law firms typically structure their probate legal fees in one of 3 ways: they bill hourly for the work involved, they bill on a flat-rate basis according to the value or complexity of the Estate, or, more commonly, they bill based on a percentage of the total Estate value.
The Law Society of Alberta, the governing body that oversees the legal profession in Alberta, has created a probate fee guideline for Alberta probate lawyers. It’s recommended that you hire a reputable lawyer whose probate legal fees are close to what is suggested by the guidelines.
The guidelines suggest the following legal fees for core services:
- Estates up to $150,000 in value: $2,250.00 plus 0.5% of the value of the Estate plus disbursements for any costs incurred by the law firm;
- Estates over $150,000 in value: $2,250.00 plus 1.0% of the value of the Estate plus disbursements for any costs incurred by the law firm.
It’s worth keeping in mind that the above numbers serve as a guide only and that many Alberta probate lawyers actually charge more, in some cases significantly so, than what is suggested by the fee guidelines.
West Legal Charges Less than the Guidelines Suggest!
The probate lawyers at West Legal prioritize legal expertise, promptness, and client service, however, we’re also mindful that legal fees need to be affordable for our clients. As such, we structure our probate legal fees in a way that allows us to charge less than what the guidelines suggest for most Estates.
Our Probate Legal Fees are as follows:
Estates up to $150,000 in value
We charge a flat-rate legal fee of $3,000.00 plus disbursements for all Estates under $150,000.00 in value unless they are unusually complex. With very small Estates, this means that we may charge slightly more than what is suggested by the fee guidelines, however, we give Executors of small Estates the same quality of service as we give to Executors of multi-million dollar Estates.
Estates over $150,000.00 in value
We charge $2,000.00 plus 1.0% of the value of the Estate, as well as ‘out-of-pocket’ disbursements. Many Estates that require probate fall within the $150,000.00 – $1,000,000.00 value range, and we’re able to offer our clients a discount to the fee guide, while still providing a high level of client service and legal expertise.
Estates over $1,000,000.00 in value
If you’re the Executor of an Estate that’s over $1,000,000.00 in value, contact our probate lawyers for a free, no-obligation quote. With sizable Estates, we’re able to offer an even greater discount to the fee guidelines, depending on the value of the Estate and the complexity of your circumstances.
How Can I Save Money on Disbursements?
Disbursements are ‘out-of-pocket’ expenses incurred by a probate lawyer while handling your file. Most law firms charge clients for disbursements in addition to base probate legal fees. While West Legal does charge disbursements for things such as Land Titles search fees, court filing fees, registered mail fees, and other out-of-pocket expenses, we don’t charge you for disbursements that aren’t ‘out-of-pocket’ expenses.
Many law firms charge clients for things like photocopies, long-distance telephone calls, regular mail postage costs, file storage, and file administration fees. At West Legal, we ensure that we limit our disbursements to actual expenses that we incur on behalf of the Estate so that we can save you money on probate fees.
Reach Out to Us Today!
If you’re an Executor, or the loved one of a recently deceased individual, we welcome you to reach out to the experienced probate lawyers at West Legal. We strive to offer affordability, transparency, timeliness, and sound legal advice to our clients throughout the Estate administration process. If you’d like to get started, contact our office today for a free-of-charge, no-obligation consultation.