What Will an Attorney Charge for Probate in California?
The fee an attorney is allowed to charge in probate can be quite high. Often the fee falls 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, estate size is the number one determinant of probate cost when using an attorney. 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 the estate will save using our non-attorney probate services.
Types of Fees in Probate
Probate is so expensive due to a plethora of court-mandated fees. For example, executors are 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, executors can avoid some probate costs, either by self-representation or by avoiding probate altogether!
Avoidable Probate Costs
1. Attorneys’ Fees
Believe it or not, attorneys’ fees 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. 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 attorneys’ fees. Not to mention, a lawyer may also charge extraordinary fees based on the value of the 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?
Probate Without a Lawyer
Luckily, successful probate without a lawyer is 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. Plus, 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.
While we are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice, A People’s Choice can help you ensure you are accurately completing the necessary forms to settle your loved one’s estate. Not to mention, we can keep probate cost down by saving you thousands compared to what you would spend on an attorney.
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 a 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.
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.