While football star Steve McNair's estate is not typical in size or complexity as compared to the average estate, it is nonetheless instructive as to how expensive and public a probated estate can become. The McNair estate has only been open 4 months, and the first interim fee request for the estate's lawyers, Adams & Reese, was $51,000. Over 80% of this was from a single lawyer in the firm, who so far has billed 188 hours on the file, and there has been little work billed on the tax aspects of this estate, which will no doubt also be sizable. I point this out not to suggest that there is anything improper about the billings in this estate. To the contrary, this is a large, complex estate, with many moving parts and many disputes that have been raised along the past 4 months. My point is that probate can be very expensive, but that many of these expenses can be eliminated with simple planning. For example, if McNair had only drafted a will, the claim of his alleged illegitimate child would have been barred. If a business agreement had been put in place with his partner in the restaurant, many hours of court appearances, research, and hearing time could have been eliminated. If he had drafted a will that took advantage of the unlimited marital deduction, he could have provided for his widow, and his children, while saving literally millions of dollars in unnecessary estate taxes. And, if he had drafted a trust, much of the public nature of these proceedings would have been avoided.
If you think that you might benefit from planning your affairs, I will be happy to discuss your planning options with you. Please feel free to call my office at 601-925-9797 to schedule an appointment.