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Probate Costs in California

How Much Does Probate Cost in California?

Cost of Probate in California is established by California Probate Code

California Probate Code section 10810 sets the maximum statutory fees that attorneys can charge for a probate.Our busy Probate attorneys are constantly asked: “what is the cost of probate?” It is not determined by attorneys, it is actually set by California Probate Code section 10810 which sets the maximum statutory fees that attorneys can charge for a Probate based on the valuation of the Estate. So if you were wondering what probate costs, you can figure it out yourself based on the simple formulas below. Additionally, if you are seeking the assistance of a Probate Attorney, his or her fees are paid by Estate’s Funds – not the burden of the survivors.

Probate Costs in California are comprised of several common fees which will be paid to:

  • your probate attorney
  • the probate court
  • real estate appraiser
  • local newspaper (required notices)
  • surety bond – required for Administrator/Executor
  • tax consultant or CPA
  • etc., etc…

What Does Your Probate Lawyer Generally Do?

  • consulting with family members
  • consulting with the executor on a range of issues that may arise
  • preparation of the necessary court paperwork
  • going to probate court with clients or on their behalf

What “Extra Services” Can Your Probate Lawyer Provide?

  • arranging for property maintenance
  • arranging for the sale of a property
  • preparing tax returns on behalf of the estate

Probate Costs in California – Fees paid to the Court

Probates – For probate cases, there is a $435 fee payable to the Probate Court for each petition you have to file. In simple probate cases you need only file two petitions: the initial “Petition for Probate” t and the “Petition for Final Distribution.”

Probate Costs in California – Fees paid to Others – Some Examples

Publishing Costs - You’ll also have to file a Notice of Probate in a newspaper. You are required to use only certain newspapers, and their charges will vary. Expect the notice to cost anywhere from $100 to $500.

Surety Bond Costs - The Administrator or Executor may be required to purchase a Surety Bond from an insurance/surety company. If the “Personal Representative” were to empty the decedent’s bank accounts, or mismanage the estate such that the estate lost value, the bond would potentially pay off the estate. When a surety company has to make good on a bond, that surety company, sometimes with the help of law enforcement if there was criminality involved, will attempt to bring the Administrator or Executor to justice and seek reimbursement. Ballpark cost for a surety bond is difficult to predict as the face value of the bond will be determined by the value and nature of the property involved in the probate, and then the creditworthiness and the net worth of person applying for the bond. Some personal representatives applying for a surety bond may simply not qualify and be declined.

Can the Surety Bond requirement be challenged?

It is not unusual that a decedent will have received advice or counsel from an attorney prior to their death while drafting a will, and might include a waiver of the bond requirement in the their will. The probate court might agree with the decedent’s wishes to waive the bond, but the court has the last word in such matters. If the cost of a bond is too much in relation to the estate or there are other reasons a bond is not desired, the other common “work around” is that all the beneficiaries agree to waive the bond and advise the probate court. While that will usually tip the scales to waive a surety bond, if the personal representative lives outside of California, the probate court will probably overrule the beneficiaries and insist on a surety bond.

Probate Costs in California – Fees Paid to Your Probate Attorney

Here at Vincent W. Davis & Associates, our “ordinary” probate fees are called a “statutory” fee and they are based on the fair market value of the assets that comprise the estate. The fee is based on assets and does not take liabilities into account. The California probate code establishes a fee schedule as follows:

  • 4% of the first $100,000
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% on the next $9,000,000
  • 0.5% on the next $15,000,000

Example – Statutory Fees

Example: (Fee for Probate Lawyer) – Say the only asset in an estate is a $625,000 house, and there is a $333,000 mortgage remaining payable. The mortgage balance is a “teaser” inserted just to drive home a point you should remember: liabilities have no bearing on the fee. The statutory fee would be $15,500 based solely on the full $625,000 value:

   4% of the first $100k = $4,000
+ 3% of the next $100k = $3,000
+ 2% of the remaining $325,000 = $8,500
   Total: $15,500

Probate Costs in California – Fees Paid to The Executor

The Executor will be looking at a year or more to probate a typical estate and is entitled to charge the exact same fee that the Executor’s Probate Lawyer charges. Often the executor is a family member who will decide to waive the fee if they can afford to volunteer the time and energy. It is typical that family members who are “honored” by being appointed Executor, feel they should waive the fee that the Executor is entitled. Months later, they will change their mind, or wish they had never volunteered to be Executor for no compensation. There is a lot of work involved! There is also great responsibility and opportunity for hurt feelings and emotional strain by the time the estate is properly probated. Before volunteering to waive your fee, give it some thought.

Probate Costs in California – Fees Paid to The Appraiser

All of the assets owned by the decedent must be “inventoried” and “appraised”. The Probate Court will appoint the appraiser. The appraiser’s fees are 0.1% of the value of the appraised assets. Therefore, for our $625,000 example estate, the appraisal fee would be $625.

Example – Detailed Probate Costs

Example: (Total Cost of Probate) – Again, we are assuming the only asset in an estate is a $625,000 house, and there is a $333,000 mortgage remaining payable. An estimate of the total costs & fees for such a probate would look like:

Here’s how the fees would add up on our very straight-forward and simple $625,000 probate case.

$395 fee to file “Petition to Probate” with the Probate Court
$150 fee to newspaper for “Notice to Creditors” publication
$625 “Inventory and Appraisal” fee
$395 fee to file “Petition for Final Distribution” with the Probate Court
$15,500 Probate attorney’s statutory fee
$15,500 Executor’s statutory fee
$32,565.00 – Ballpark Costs for Example above
$17,065.00 – Should Executor choose to “waive” their fee

Be Careful! - $32,565.00 or the $17,065.00 are generalizations. There could be a bunch of little probate-related fees that add up to a significant sum, such as phone charges, Certified mail fees, miscellaneous court fees, etc. Many first time Executors might confuse the cost of the probate with other expenses that will dilute the overall net value of the estate such as mortgage payments, property taxes, unfilled income taxes, maintenance people to clean the house, painters to paint the house, real estate commissions should the home be sold, etc., etc. You can envision the extra work and hours involved for dealing with extra matters. Both the Executor and the Probate Attorney are allowed, by law, to each charge fees for “extraordinary” service to compensate for all the extra efforts.

What is considered an “Extraordinary” service?

The probate court decides the difference between “ordinary” services and “extraordinary” services and whether the time an efforts for specific “extras” rise to the plateau of “extraordinary” services, and also whether the proposed fee(s) for them is reasonable or not.

Southern California Probate Law Attorney helps Personal Representatives

If you are named as the personal representative to oversee the probate of an estate in Southern California or for any estate related matter, it would be in your best interest to hire an experienced and skilled California Probate Attorney who is well-versed in California Probate Law. Vincent W. Davis & Associates is a long-established Southern California law firm serving clients in Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties from seven conveniently located offices.

A Note From Vincent W. Davis – A Parting Shot – A Postscript

Postscript: By The Way - If you are reading this while helping a loved-one, relative, or family-member and see glimpses of your own delicate situation between the lines —i.e. you have an old will, or NO will or trust at all, please remember that you can avoid probate here in California if you would simply get yourself a Living Revocable Trust and possibly a companion Pour-Over Will for back up..

A few hours of your time and not much money, and you can spare those who out-live you unnecessary time, fees, petitions to the state court, personal appearances in the state court — all the unnecessary junk detailed on this page. When you die, those you want to take over your stuff – simply take over your stuff. Simple. Cheap. No muss – no fuss… No probate courts, no year of frustrating and tedious work for your spouse, child or friend to hash out your estate for 12 to 24 months before your loved-ones can have their intended inheritance. Consider discussing your own situation with Mr. Davis when you call Vincent W. Davis & Associates to discus the Probate you are researching here today.

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