Dying without a will impacts real estate assets

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DEAR BOB: My husband died last March. He held title to our house in fee simple. But he didn't have a will. After I got over the shock of his unexpected death at age 49, my high-school-age son told me I had to probate my husband's estate to get title to the house. He said he learned about this in his "Business Law" high school class. I then consulted a lawyer recommended by a friend. Because my husband didn't leave a will, he said the estate had to go through local probate court. Although the estate was quite simple, except for a business my husband co-owned with his partner, all went smoothly. I just received the title to my house. But all the legal fees cost almost $7,500 for a relatively small estate worth less than $700,000. Do you think I was "ripped off" by the lawyer? – Sally W. DEAR SALLY: Your situation provides a valuable but expensive lesson. With simple estate planning, the expense and inconvenience of probate court costs and delays could have been completely avoided....