Most people know probate is expensive, and that California’s statutory attorneys’ fees account for a majority of that cost. However, some individuals do not recognize that the state of California also allows attorneys to earn even more for performing “extraordinary services”. Further, the exact value of extraordinary compensation is determined at the court’s discretion. Therefore, estate administrators looking to avoid added California probate fees should educate themselves on the bases for the fees. Plus, they should consider working with a legal document assistant instead.

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What Constitutes “Extraordinary” Services?

According to the California rules of court, the following services are examples of those considered “extraordinary” and therefore eligible for additional attorneys’ fees:

  • Legal services in connection with the sale of property held in the estate;
  • Services to secure a loan to pay estate debts;
  • Defense of the personal representative’s account;
  • Defense of a will contested after its admission to probate;
  • Extraordinary efforts to locate estate assets; and
  • Accounting for a deceased, incapacitated, or absconded personal representative under Probate Code section 10953.

While this is not an exhaustive list, it includes some of the more common examples of extraordinary services. For example, at times, interested parties do contest wills, and personal representatives may not necessarily feel comfortable defending the documents. Thus, these situations typically require additional action from a lawyer outside of their normal probate responsibilities.

How Much Do Extraordinary Services Cost?

California probate attorneys’ extraordinary fees vary by situation. Plus, the court has the power to set the costs, so they are generally difficult to estimate. However, we can look to past cases in California Probate Court to get a better idea of their cost.

For example, in the 2008 case of Estate of Lopez in the California Appellate Court, the administrator of the estate appealed the Probate Court’s decision to award extraordinary fees to his attorney. In this case, the probate lawyer helped the (court-suspended) executor deal with troublesome accounting issues and avoid unnecessary charges. As a result, the lawyer charged an extraordinary fee of $14,772.30 to account for nearly 70 hours of additional work. The value of the estate was $1,124,728.44. Although a personal representative of the estate appealed the extraordinary fees, the court denied this request.

Reducing Extraordinary Probate Attorneys’ Fees in California

Unfortunately, while you may, as described above, object to an attorneys’ extraordinary fees, it’s definitely not the best way to save money on your California probate. Instead, the best way to prevent extraordinary fees is to avoid hiring an attorney for probate. For example, if you are the executor of a simple, uncontested estate in California, you may not need to hire legal representation!

Instead, consider working with a registered legal document assistant such as A People’s Choice. We provide flat-fee, low cost assistance with completing and filing your probate paperwork! Plus, we can customize our services to fit your needs.

A People’s Choice has over 40 years’ experience assisting individuals with their legal documents in the California court system. Also, we have established an excellent reputation in the community. Call today at 1-800-747-2780 to learn more about how we can help.

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