What Is The Cost Of Probate

An executor of a Last Will and Testament (will) or administrator of a deceased person’s estate has substantial responsibilities regarding the probate process. This person is tasked with ensuring that the legal method of settling the estate is completed correctly. Probate can be a lengthy, complex process, no matter the size of the estate. If you have been named executor of a will or appointed administrator of an estate and have questions about the cost of probate, consider calling an experienced California probate attorney at Von Rock Law at (866) 720-0195.

What Is the Average Cost of Probate in California?

Some of the costs associated with probate in California are required of any estate, and others apply only under certain circumstances. Because the cost of probate is assessed depending on the gross value of the estate, a true average cost is difficult to calculate. In California, probate costs are referred to as statutory fees, which are split equally between the attorney for the estate and the estate administrator or executor of the will. According to the California Probate Code, Sections 10810–10814, statutory fees are assessed in the following tiers:

  • The first $100,000 of the estate value: 4%
  • The next $100,000 of the estate value: 3%
  • The next $800,000 of the estate value: 2%
  • The next $9 million of the estate value: 1%
  • The next $15 million of the estate value: 0.5%

For instance, for an estate valued at $1 million, the statutory fees would be $23,000; for an estate valued at $2 million, the statutory fees would be $33,000; and for an estate valued at $3 million, the statutory fees would be $43,000.

According to the California State Controller, the gross value of an estate is determined by a probate referee, a court-appointed appraiser. This appraiser inventories the assets of the estate and assigns value to each, arriving at the total gross value of the property.

How Much Is the Probate Court Fee in California?

The costs assessed under the guidelines of California Probate Code Section 10810 are paid out of the estate to the estate administrator and the estate attorney. However, these are not generally the only fees that an estate will pay. Other costs associated with the probate process include:

  • Court filing fees
  • Fees for professional services (appraisers, accountants, etc.)
  • Public notice fees
  • Cost of the bond, usually paid by the estate representative, for each year the estate is in probate
  • Probate referee fee

These costs can add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars. In addition to these fees, which are required for almost every estate in California, there may be other fees outside the ordinary service fees and statutory compensation. These extraordinary fees are paid by the estate before the assets are allocated, typically charged on an hourly basis, and must be approved by the county probate court. A probate lawyer from Von Rock Law may be able to help mitigate extra fees for probate, preserving the value of the estate.

Extraordinary Fees for an Estate Representative

Fees for extraordinary services are assessed at the discretion of a probate judge and may be paid to the estate representative. Extraordinary services that an estate representative may perform include:

  • Performing real estate transactions, including selling, financing, or foreclosing on property
  • Carrying on business on behalf of the deceased to preserve the contents of the estate or as ordered by the court
  • Handling audits of the estate or litigation for the tax liability of the estate
  • Preparing tax returns (state and federal) on behalf of the estate

Extraordinary Fees for an Estate Attorney

Extraordinary services that a California probate attorney may perform include but are not limited to the following:

  • Litigation and legal services to protect the estate or the estate’s personal representative
  • Real estate legal services, including drafting contracts
  • Defense of a contested will
  • Extraordinary effort to determine and secure estate assets
  • Accounting for an incapacitated or deceased estate representative as per California Probate Code Section 10953

These may not be the only extraordinary services required by an estate administrator or attorney. The probate court must approve any extraordinary fees assessed by either party before the estate pays them.

How Much Does a Probate Attorney Cost in California?

Attorney fees for probate lawyers in California vary. Each lawyer typically sets his or her own rates based on experience and other factors. Half of the statutory fees assessed as a percentage of the estate’s value will be paid to the estate attorney, but there may be other legal costs.

Unlike some states, California does not require an estate to be represented by a lawyer to be probated. However, the probate system can be complex and confusing for people who are unfamiliar with probate. Many people, therefore, choose to find a probate attorney who can explain each step of the process, draft necessary documents, file those documents on time and in the correct place and help navigate this entire process.

How Much Does an Estate Have to Be Worth To Go Through Probate?

Estates valued at a minimum of $184,500 are required to go through California probate. The probate process may be bypassed in some cases, such as when the estate is small and there is clear directive in the will. In other cases, heirs may be able to process the estate through a Small Estate Affidavit, a simplified process for estates valued under the probate minimum. In other cases, the spouse or registered domestic partner of the deceased may use the Spousal Property Petition to expedite the probate process.

Although neither of these processes avoid probate altogether, both may speed the process up significantly. Not every estate will be eligible for an expedited probate procedure, so it is important to verify that the estate and the person are eligible to file either a Small Estate Affidavit or a Spousal Property Petition.

Contact a Probate Attorney for Help Today

If you have been named as the executioner of a will or as the administrator of an estate and are unsure how to start the probate process, a seasoned probate attorney may be able to help. If you have questions about the filing process and the cost of probate, consider contacting an experienced San Francisco probate attorney at Von Rock Law today by calling (866) 720-0195 to schedule a consultation.

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