Typical Probate Fees
The fees in probate cases are paid to attorneys, to the court and to third parties, including appraisers. The following is a breakdown of fees:
Fees paid to the Court
There is a $435 filing fee payable to the Court for each petition you have to file. In simple probate cases there are typically two petitions filed: the initial “Petition to Probate” the estate and a “Petition for Final Distribution”.
For more complex cases, you may have to file additional petitions. You must arrange for the Notice of the Petition for Probate to be published in a newspaper of general circulation where the decedent was domiciled at the time of death. Charges for publication will vary.
Fees paid to the attorney
The California Probate Code establishes statutory fees used to compensate attorneys and executors in probate cases. Fees are based on the fair market value of the assets in the estate and liabilities are not taken into account.
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
A reasonable fee thereafter
ExampleIf the asset in an estate is a $500,000 house with a $400,000 mortgage, the statutory fee would be $13,000 based on the full $500,000 fair market value:
4% of the first $100k = $4,000
+ 3% of the next $100k = $3,000
+ 2% of the remaining $300,000 = $6,000
Fees paid to the executor
The executor is entitled to charge the same fee as the probate lawyer charges. When a family member serves as the executor, they will sometimes waive the fee. In most cases, the initial intention is to not charge a fee, but they often change their minds when they see how much work is involved and when they do not receive assistance from other beneficiaries.
All of the assets that the decedent owned need to be “inventoried” and “appraised”. The Court appoints the appraiser, whose fees are 0.1% of the value of the appraised assets (e.g. in a $500,000 estate the appraisal fee would be $500).
Example of fees on a simple $500,000 probate case
$435 Court filing fee
$100 publication fee
$500 appraisal fee
$435 fee to file Petition for Final Distribution
$13,000 attorney’s statutory fee
Possibly a $13,000 executor’s statutory fee
Total: $14,470 to $27,470
Special circumstances or needs
The above example is based on an uncontested probate with no complications. If there are issues that arise, such as having to file tax returns for multiple years or having to sell real estate, additional fees will apply. The California Probate Code provides for “extraordinary fees” when dealing with extra matters.
(The difference between “ordinary” services and “extraordinary” services is that the court gets to decide whether the “extraordinary” services were necessary or not and also whether the proposed fee for them is reasonable or not.).
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