Potential probate clients who phone our office often ask “what are the costs to probate in California?” Not surprising, the answer will depend on who you choose to help you with the process. Most lawyers charge by the hour or collect a flat fee 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!

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 his/her 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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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). 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.

Costs to Probate in California with Attorney vs Non-Attorney

The costs 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 in the process of probating her mother Josephine’s estate. Josephine owns a home valued at $500,000 and there are two beneficiaries to her estate.  The remaining mortgage on the home is $360,000. The home has $140,000 in equity. Kimberly hires attorney Paulette to probate her mother’s estate. Based on California’s probate statutory 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 $3900.00. The estate would have saved $9100 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!

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 necessary to probate an estate. As mentioned above, 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. You do not have to hire an attorney to probate an estate in California! An executor or administrator can charge the above referenced statutory fee as well. Note, the executor may not necessarily be the attorney. 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.

Other Expected Costs to Probate in California

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 as well. 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.

As you can see, fees and costs to probate in California can quickly add up. Contact us for more information on how to save money when probating your loved one’s estate.

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