Probate can be quite confusing and complex, and estimating California probate costs and fees is no exception. Plus, factor in additional attorney and executor fees and payment schedules, and you’re faced with a ton of information. Unfortunately, the cost of probate can just as confusing as the process itself.
Therefore, at A People’s Choice, we try to explain the probate process as simply as possible to get you on the right track quickly. Plus, we’ve outlined some general information about California probate costs and fees to answer any questions you may have before starting the process.
For more specific data, feel free to use our online probate calculator to determine your statutory attorney fees and see how much you will save by using our services.
Attorney fees in probate proceedings are based on a statutory tiered scale calculated on the gross value of the estate. The allowed statutory attorney fees do not include court filing fees and other third party costs.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of distributing a decedent’s assets to the rightful beneficiaries or heirs after death. Additionally, the probate process validates an existing will. In other words, if a person dies with a will, the probate process ensures their estate is divided accordingly. On the other hand, if a person dies intestate, or without a will, their estate will be administered under California intestate succession laws. Keep in mind that a decedent’s estate must go through probate in the Superior Court of the county in which the decedent resided or owned real property.
In most estates, a person has previously drafted and executed a will that describes their wishes for the distribution of their assets prior to their death. Additionally, the will typically names an individual — most of the time a family member, spouse, or attorney — who has been appointed the will’s executor. However, keep in mind that this estate representative or executor must file a petition with the Superior Court to be formally appointed as the legal representative of the estate and start the probate process. Simply designating an individual in a will does not automatically give them legal authority to execute the will or administer the estate.
That being said, once the estate representative is officially appointed, it is their responsibility to compile an inventory of any estate assets, locate creditors, and pay any bills left by the deceased. They will also be in charge of managing the overall estate assets. Then, after the representative completes their appointed duties, they will have to file another petition to the Superior Court to grant permission to distribute the estate assets to the designated parties, such as family members, heirs, and even charity foundations.
Schedule of Probate Costs and Miscellaneous Fees in California
The cost of probate in California can be quite high. When you file a petition for probate in California, you will have to pay your first probate cost which is the initial filing fee. As of 2018, the court probate petition filing fee was $435 in most California counties.
Then, you will have to pay this probate cost again once you file the petition for final distribution of the estate assets. The present fee should still be the same, but be sure to consult a registered legal document assistant about possible fee changes in your county as some counties do not follow the statewide fee schedule.
In addition to the filing fee, many courts also charge other probate costs such as a court reporter hearing fee of $30 when a hearing is involved. Additionally, once the probate has been filed, there is another probate cost for the newspaper publication fee. This publication fee is usually between $180 and $250; however, some smaller community newspapers charge as much as $600 to $700 for publication. Furthermore, once probate has been approved, a probate referee will be required to appraise and value all non-cash assets. This fee is typically .01% of the value of assets appraised. Ultimately, third party costs such as filing fees, publication fees, etc. typically range between $1200 and $1800 in an average estate with one house.
The Cost of Probate Attorney Fees in California
Probate attorney fees account for the largest cost of probate in California. Section 10810 of the California Probate Code sets the maximum statutory fees that attorneys can charge their clients for the probate process. However, the court may order higher fees if the case is deemed more complicated, thus substantially increasing the cost of probate. Potential complicated cases include those in which the deceased has a large and diverse amount of estate assets. Furthermore, higher fees are also allowed for extraordinary services such as handling creditor claims or selling real property. Most of the time, the value of the estate determines the attorney and executor fees, excluding extraordinary services.
The statutory attorney fees to probate an estate in California are as follows:
- 4% of the first $100,000 of the estate;
- 3% percent of the next $100,000;
- 2% of the next $800,000;
- 1% of the next $9,000,000;
- .5% of the next $15,000,000.
You can use our convenient online probate calculator to estimate the cost of probate and statutory attorney fees for a specific estate. However, note that the court may determine the fee for estates larger than $25,000,000.
Probate Costs Includes Attorney Plus Executor Fees
In addition to the attorney, the estate representative is also entitled to statutory compensation, as outlined in Probate Code Section 10800. However, the representative typically waives these fees.
Below is a reference chart for a combined probate cost and fees for both the executor and attorney:
|PROBATE ESTATE VALUES||TOTAL ATTORNEY AND EXECUTOR FEES*|
*It is important to note that an attorney will receive one half of the sum above and the executor will receive the other half. This is a simplified version of fee schedules for the probate process and should only be used as a reference guide. The court allows higher fees, especially in complex cases, so the actual sum may exceed the figures in the table above.
Avoid High California Probate Costs and Fees With A People’s Choice
As always when it comes to estates, it’s best to prepare as early as possible to avoid high California probate costs and fees. When you and your family think ahead about planning your estate, your heirs will have less complications and lower fees to face upon your death.
To plan your estate in the simplest, quickest way possible, contact A People’s Choice today. If you need help probating a will in California, A People’s Choice can cut down on your probate costs and save you thousands of dollars in California probate costs and fees. Plus, we can help you create a trust to avoid asking your heirs and beneficiaries to probate your estate after your death.