PROBATE FEES AND COSTS IN CALIFORNIA
STATUTORY FEES AND COURT COSTS
Probate fees are set by California’s Probate Code §10810. The statutory fees prescribed by §10810 are based on the value of the estate, as determined during the probate process.
The value of the estate is generally determined by the inventory conducted by the estate’s executor, and sometimes with the assistance of court prescribed referees. Unfortunately, in making the valuation, the court does not consider the debts of the estate to offset the gross valuation, and thus determines the fees based upon just the gross valuation of the assets in probate. For example, if a house is appraised at $1,000,000 but has an outstanding mortgage of $800,000, the house is still valued at $1,000,000 for the purposes of calculating statutory probate fees.
Statutory probate fees under §10810 are as follows:
- 4% of the first $100,000 of the estate
- 3% of the next $100,000
- 2% of the next $800,000
- 1% of the next $9,000,000
- 5% of the next $15,000,000
Table 1.0 (below) lists the California statutory fees for various sizes of estates. Be mindful, however, that these fees may be applied twice– once to cover legal costs related to probate, and once to cover executor fees.
It is also important to note that such statutory fees contemplate only ordinary probate. If the probate proceedings are complicated by lawsuits or tax issues, or if there is a larger than normal inventory of assets going through probate, the court may approve additional fee amounts in excess of the statutory amount, at its discretion. The court is typically known to approve additional fees in cases where a dispute arises during the probate process.
In addition to the statutory fees payable to the attorney, the executor, and to the probate referee(s), an estate undergoing probate must also pay court fees and other related costs. The total amount of these costs varies from case to case but are usually between $1,000 to $3,000 in additional charges to cover procedural items such as filing fees with the probate court, fees for publication of probate notices (required by statute), and certification of court documents.
In most cases, probate referees assist in determining the estate’s value by appraising the estate’s non-cash assets. The court usually assigns a probate referee to the estate when the probate proceedings are opened. Probate referees receive a fee based on 0.1% of the non-cash assets appraised. For example, in the case of a home valued by the probate referee at $1 million dollars, this amounts to a fee of $1,000. Although this fee isn’t too bad, it’s just another probate related cost that could be avoided with proper trust-based planning.
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*REMEMBER: IF BOTH THE ATTORNEY AND EXECUTOR RECEIVE A FEE, THE ESTATE WILL PAY DOUBLE THAT AMOUNT SHOWN IN TABLE 1.0. ALSO, THESE AMOUNTS DO NOT INCLUDE COURT FEES, REFEREE FEES, AND RELATED INCIDENTAL COSTS, WHICH WOULD BE ADDITIONAL COSTS.