Costs to Probate in California

Inheriting money or estate assets from a family member can change your financial situation immensely. Often that change is for the better, but it does not always translate to an instant payday. Often, the estate must first go through probate as part of the formal administration process.

A formal administration process can be a lot of work for the personal representative of the estate, especially if the representative is dealing with a complicated estate. Plus, to add insult to injury, probate has a reputation for being expensive. How much is the cost of probate when everything is said and done?

Keep in mind that, first, the cost of probate varies from one estate to another based on the type of probate administration process. Secondly, the cost of probate in California typically depends on the value of the estate and how much estate planning the deceased person did. Thirdly, whom you hire to help you file probate can have a huge impact on how much probate costs.

Probate can be quite confusing and complex, and estimating California probate costs and fees is no exception. 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 legal process, so let’s break it down a bit in this article.

Cost of probate in California

Potential probate clients, who phone our office  often ask, “what are the costs to probate in California?” Not surprisingly, the answer depends on who you choose to help you with the process.
Most lawyers charge based on an hourly rate or a flat rate when representing clients. However, when filing a California probate, statutory provisions govern attorney fees. Most people are surprised to learn that when faced with having to file a California probate, there is another option to hiring an attorney!

Document Preparation Services as a Cost-Saving Measure

Being a personal representative of an estate may sound daunting. Fortunately, having a registered legal document assistant prepare your probate forms can ease the stress of probate and lower your probate costs! And even though probate can be frustratingly slow, most people do not need to hire a lawyer.
In California, you can save by paying thousands of dollars in statutory attorney fees by filing probate using a legal document assistant like A People’s Choice. At A People’s Choice, we try to explain the probate process as simple 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 California probate calculator to determine your statutory attorney fees and see how much you will save by using our services.

California Statutory Attorney Fees for Probate

California probate statutory fees allow an attorney to collect a percentage of the gross value of the probated estate as their fee. State statute defines the percentages as follows:

  • 4% of the first $100,000 of the gross value of the probate estate
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% of the next $9 million
  • 5% of the next $15 million
“A People’s Choice walked me through the entire probate process. They are so professional and helpful. Thank you A People’s Choice for your staff’s guidance and patience to talk me through such difficult time. You made the process very smooth for me. I am so glad that I found you.” Sandie K.
“A People’s Choice made a scary Probate pretty much stress free. I would send an email with a question I had thought of over the weekend with the expectation that I would get an answer on Monday. Lo and behold, I often got an answer within minutes! We are very pleased and will be referring our friends/family to A People’s Choice!” Lyn G.

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What Will Probate Attorney Cost in California?

The fee an attorney is allowed to charge in probate can be quite high. Often, though, the probate attorney fees fall dramatically short of being justified compared to the amount of work actually done.

In most probate cases, there is no trial and little to no court appearances. Fees are primarily paid to cover the paperwork services the attorney performs (which is usually done by the attorney’s paralegal). Unfortunately, many people are shocked to discover just how expensive probate really is!

Between filing and hearing fees and statutory attorneys fees, the cost of probate can easily rise to tens of thousands of dollars. Further, many people also fail to realize that the size of the estate under review has a direct effect on probate cost. In fact, the size of estates (considering estate assets like real estate) is the number one determinant of probate cost when using an attorney.
Want to find out how much your probate might cost considering your estate assets? Use our convenient probate calculator to find out what the statutory attorney’s fees would be in a particular case. Our calculator will not only show you the attorney fees costs to probate in California but also how much you could save using our non-attorney probate services.


Types of Probate Fees in California

Probate is so expensive partially due to a plethora of court-mandated fees. For example, a personal representative or executor is responsible for ensuring the estate pays the following:

  • initial filing fee ($435 in most California counties)
  • final distribution filing fee ($435 in most California counties)
  • court reporter hearing fee (typically $30)
  • newspaper publication fee ($180-700)
  • referee appraisal (0.1% of non-cash assets)
  • third-party costs (approx. $1200-1800)
  • statutory attorneys’ fees (ranges)

Unfortunately, some of these fees are unavoidable. However, personal representatives and/or executors can avoid some probate costs either by self-representation or by avoiding probate altogether!

1. Attorneys’ Fees

Believe it or not, the fees paid to a probate attorney account for a huge percentage of the probate cost in California. In fact, California probate attorneys get paid both statutory and extraordinary fees.

When it comes to statutory fees, California laws outline exactly how much probate attorneys can charge during the estate administration process. More specifically, probate lawyers are entitled to 4% of the first $100,000 of the estate’s value, 3% of the next $100,000, 2% of the next $800,000, and 1% for amounts over $1 million. Thus, the larger the estate, the higher the compensation for attorneys.

Not to mention, a lawyer may also charge extraordinary fees based on the value of a typical estate, time spent performing extraordinary tasks, and the outcomes of those tasks. Therefore, estates and heirs benefit greatly from avoiding these fees altogether. But how exactly is that possible?

California Probate Cost Without a Lawyer

Probate without a lawyer is definitely possible. While representing oneself in a probate case is not always the easiest task, there are endless free resources available to help executors through the process. For example, A People’s Choice’s California law blog is full of information on probating estates. Local law libraries have guides for the probate process and self-representation in court. Finally, local probate courts provide information on local rules and court-specific documents.

That said, if you decide to represent yourself in a probate case, there are other options for legal document assistance. Specifically, registered legal document assistants such as A People’s Choice are here to help you complete and file your legal forms from start to finish. Plus, A People’s Choice offers a range of services, from simple document assistance to full-service help throughout the entire probate.

2. Courts’ Fees

Between filing, hearings, and other miscellaneous fees, repeated interactions with the court makes probate that much more expensive. However, not every estate requires full probate. In fact, some estates are eligible to have assets distributed to beneficiaries under California’s simplified probate procedures.
Specifically, certain small estates are eligible for transfer by affidavit. Plus, others are transferable via a spousal property petition. While utilizing these simplified procedures will not save executors from paying all court fees, it will lessen the load quite a bit.

Small Estate Affidavits in California

Below is a quick description of California’s quick probate procedures for small estates in California.


  • Real and personal property worth $20,000 or less – Successors can ask the court to “set aside” the estate.
  • Real property worth $55,425 or less – Successors can file an Affidavit Re: Real Property of Small Value and provide an inventory and appraisal of the real property.
  • Real and personal property worth $166,250 or less – Successors can collect the property and distribute it to the heirs with the Affidavit for Collection or Transfer of Personal Property. Be sure to read up on the specific processes and requirements for each of these and other small estate procedures in California.

Spousal Property Transfer Petition

Finally, individuals with decedent spouses can file a Spousal Property Petition to transfer property without a full probate proceeding. While there will be a court hearing, this process is much simpler than probate.
Spouses must simply fill out and file the petition along with their spouse’s will and a copy of any agreement (if applicable). Then, before the hearing, spouses must serve necessary parties and file an Order for a Spousal Property Petition. Feel free to contact A People’s Choice for more help with this process.

Get help with your California probate forms today!

A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your California probate documents instead of an expensive attorney!

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California Probate Cost with Attorney vs Non-Attorney

The California probate cost comparison of using the services of a non-attorney vs an attorney to assist with the probate process might surprise you. Below are two comparison scenarios.

Comparison 1 – $9,100 in Savings!

Kimberly is a personal representative in the process of probating her mother Josephine’s larger estate. Josephine owns a home valued at $500,000, and beneficiary designation exists for her estate. The remaining mortgage on the home is $360,000. The home has $140,000 in equity.

Kimberly, feeling she wants an expert in complex estates, hires attorney Paulette to probate her mother’s estate. Based on California probate cost and fees, Paulette can charge $13,000 for probating Josephine’s estate. The present mortgage is not factored into attorney fees.

The total gross value of the estate is the deciding factor in determining the attorney fee percentage. In comparison, had Kimberly retained the non-attorney probate services of A People’s Choice, the fees would have been $3,900.00. The estate would have saved $9,100 in fees!

Comparison 2 – $15,100 in Savings!

Robert retains attorney Gus to probate his father’s estate. Robert’s father, Henry, has an estate valued at $800,000. Henry owned a house outright valued at $700,000 and an antique car valued at $100,000. There are 5 beneficiaries.

Gus, the attorney, can charge $19,000 in attorney fees for probating a house and car. This means Gus can earn $19,000 for very little paperwork. In comparison, had Robert retained A People’s Choice instead of attorney Gus to assist with the probate process, the fees would have been $3900.00, Using the probate services of a non-attorney would have saved Robert and the estate $15,100!

Note that the executor may not necessarily be the attorney. but the estate’s appointed executor can retain an attorney to assist in probating the estate. This means the attorney and executor can both receive a statutory fee as reflected above.

As you can see, the costs to probate in California can vary dramatically depending on which service you choose to help you through the process. Unless family members and creditors are fighting over assets, an attorney is not generally necessary to probate an estate.

Probate is largely a matter of paperwork. At A People’s Choice, we can help you complete and file the forms with the appropriate court. An executor or administrator can charge the above referenced statutory fee as well.

Other Expected California Probate Cost

Other costs to probate in California include newspaper publication fees and the probate appraiser fee. The newspaper publication fee is somewhat consistent, ranging typically from $200 to $700 depending on the newspaper that handles publishing the probate notice.

On the other hand, the probate appraiser is allowed to charge 0.1% of the gross value of the appraised property. Assets of $500,000 would demand a probate referee fee of $500 plus mileage and miscellaneous copying costs.

Of course, there are also court filing fees. In a full probate proceeding, there are at least two petitions that must be filed, both of which trigger the payment of a court filing fee. The current court filing fee for the Petition to Probate is $435. Another filing fee of $435 must be paid with the Petition for Final Distribution.

In addition, most courts also charge a court reporter fee of $30 with each petition. There are also other costs of probate associated with obtaining certified copies of Letters and recording the Order, but these are nominal and do not usually exceed $100.

Essentially, fees and costs to probate in California can quickly add up, and completing probate in California can be a long process. Estates over $166,250 can take up to a year to settle. On the other hand, you can usually complete a small estate probate in 2-3 months.
No matter whether your estate is large or small or involves bank accounts, life insurance policies, community property, or other hurdles,, hiring A People’s Choice allows you to avoid paying statutory attorneys fees. As a result, using a professional legal document assistant for probate, you will save thousands of dollars in probate costs.

Contact us for more information on how to save money when probating your loved one’s estate.

Avoid High California Probate Cost and Fees With A People’s Choice

A People’s Choice has been in business since 1980 and has successfully helped thousands of people just like you. Consequently, your probate will be in good hands. Contact A People’s Choice to prepare your documents so that the probate of your family member’s estate can go by quickly and painlessly, whether it is full probate or simplified probate. Call us today at 800-747-2780.

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 developing an estate plan, 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.

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.

Get help with your California probate forms today!

A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your California probate documents instead of an expensive attorney!

Get Started on My Probate

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