The cost of Probate can vary. Depending on several factors such as, the court and filing fees; attorney and executor fees (note, Executors can waive their right to compensation; California sets executor fees by statute); additional professional service fees for accountants, appraiser and land Surveyors; probate bond (which is required in California for all personal representatives, unless waived by the Will or all beneficiaries waive in writing), thus, the larger the estate, the higher the costs.
California Statutory Probate Fees & Executor Commissions
California sets executor commissions and attorney fees by statute (California Probate Code §10800 & 10810) which are based on the gross value of the estate. Unfortunately, in making the valuation, the court does not consider the debts of the estate to offset the gross valuation.
As of 2023, California’s statutory attorney and executor probate fees are as follows:
- 4% on the first $100,000
- 3% on the next $100,000
- 2% on the next $800,000
- 1% on the next $9,000,000
- 0.5% on the next $15,000,000
- For all amounts above $25,000,000, the court will determine a reasonable compensation amount.
California Probate Court Filing Fees
In California, to file for a petition of letters of administration or testamentary, the initial filing fee is $435. Executors also have to pay a final distribution fee, which is another filing fee of $435.
Alternatively, a petition or opposition to a petition (after issuance of special letters of administration or letters testamentary or of administration in decedents’ estates that are not subject to the $435 fee) has a filing fee of $200.
Separately, there are charges throughout probate such as document searches ($15 for each search longer than 10 minutes) and delivery fees (for example, providing the will to the court) of $50.
Fees change periodically, and the estate may be subject to other court fees, so it is helpful to check the California court probate fees page: here.
What Might Count as an Extraordinary Service?
One thing to note is the court may allow for additional attorney compensation if it deems the attorney has provided extraordinary services and charged at a reasonable rate (California probate code §10811).
Compensation for Extraordinary Services
The court may also allow an attorney to be compensated for extraordinary services performed by a paralegal (these services must be supervised by the attorney). In order for the consideration, the petition for compensation must list the hours spent and the services performed by the paralegal.
Extraordinary service fees are also usually charged on a contingent basis and costs are pre-determined by the attorney and are subject to the following conditions:
- The agreement must be in writing and all the requirements of section 6147 of the business and professions code are met;
- The agreement is approved by a court via a court hearing as required by law;
- The court considers and decides that (1) the compensation in the agreement is fair and reasonable and (2) that the agreement is good and in the best interests of the estate and those involved with the estate.
Can You Probate a Will Without a Lawyer?
There is no law in California that states that you must have legal representation. Therefore, you can probate a will without a lawyer but it should be known that probate can be complicated. This means that you could easily make mistakes if you are not familiar with the process which could end up costing you more money and time in the long run.
Thus, though you might think you might save money by going solo, a good probate attorney in Orange County will help ensure that you avoid making costly mistakes and that the process goes as smoothly as possible, potentially saving you both money and headaches down the road.
Probate in California FAQs
How Long Does Probate Take in California?
A lot of factors come into play, but Probate can range anywhere from nine months to several years in California.
How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost in California?
In California, attorneys are allowed to bill according to a percentage of the total value of the estate. The schedule of fees for an attorney is as follows:
- 4% of the first $100,000
- 3% of the next $100,000
- 2% of the next $800,000
- 1% of the next $9M
- 1/2% of the next $15M
A court determines the fee for Estates larger than $25M.
How Can You Avoid Probate in California?
To avoid going through the probate process you must have one of the following situations:
- The estate value doesn’t exceed the small estate threshold ($184,500 or less)
- There is a Living Trust (any assets outside of it are valued at less than the small estate threshold)
- Assets are set up to pass directly to beneficiaries (for example assets owned in joint tenancy or if the decedent is survived by a spouse, the spouse can file a spousal property petition and avoid probate).
Who Pays Probate Fees in California?
Most of the costs associated with probate, including probate attorney fees in California, are paid for out of the estate prior to any distributions made to heirs.