How Much Does Probate Cost?

Probate is the court process that takes place after someone dies, where the court will inventory and appraise the deceased's property and then distribute that property according to the deceased's will, or if there is no will, according to state law. The probate process is overseen by the Probate Court and requires filing the appropriate paperwork and making appearances in court. Probate does not require the hiring of an attorney, but the vast majority of people do hire one to assist with the process because the probate is very time-consuming, very involved, and deadline-sensitive.

Probate Costs in California

But how much does hiring a probate attorney to help cost? The cost depends on what state you are in and where the probate is taking place. In most states, an attorney will charge an hourly fee or set a flat fee for all of the probate work. However, California is different. California has a statutory fee (set by California law) that probate attorneys may elect to charge their clients. This statutory fee is a percentage of the gross value of the assets that pass through probate. Remember, your attorney does not have to charge you these fees, but he or she may do so. Here are the current rates (remember, that these percentages are applied to the gross value of the probate estate):

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

Let's look at an example of an average sized estate: there is a $450,000 house, plus some money in the savings, life insurance, and cars. The total value of the estate come out to be $900,000. Here is a calculation of the fees:

  • 4% of the first $100,000 = $4,000
  • 3% of the next $100,000 = $3,000
  • 2% of the remaining $700,000 = $14,000
  • TOTAL attorney's fees = $21,000

So, you are paying your probate attorney $21,000 for filing some paperwork and appearing in court a few times. Sometimes, the attorney may not even need to make a court appearance! The attorney's fees are paid out from the deceased's estate, money that could instead be going to the beneficiaries.

You can avoid probate if you have an estate plan properly set up. Devices such as a trust and a pour-over will may allow your estate to avoid probate and all of these unnecessary costs. Contact an Atlantis Law estate planning attorney to set up a free consultation to learn more about avoiding probate, so that your loved ones will receive all of the property that you worked hard to obtain.

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