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California Probate Costs And Fees by Mitchell A. Port

Of the many probates I work on as a probate lawyer in Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Santa Barbara County and Orange County, California, I often am asked before starting work what can my client look forward to spend for the entire matter.

California probate costs are fairly standard since the procedures are uniform throughout the State.

Here’s a breakdown:

The cost to file for probate is $320 no matter what is the value of the estate. Before the law changed in March, 2008 when the California Court of Appeal issued its ruling in the Estate of Pierre P. Claeyssens, eight different incremental amounts were charged as filing fees and the schedule can be found here.

Next, a publication fee is charged by the local newspaper where the decedent died which announces the person’s death and how interested persons can contact the attorney, executor or administrator. The cost to run legal notice depends on the area, but fees can generally be between $350 to $500.

An appraisal by a court-appointed independent third party (a probate referee) is necessary if there are real property or other non-cash assets in the estate. The probate referee ordinarily charges 1/10 of 1% of the appraised value in each case plus miscellaneous charges (e.g., mileage, photos).

Often a bond must be posted by the executor or administrator to insure that if the value of the probate property declines as a result of the executor’s or administrator’s misconduct, a bond will make the estate whole again. Obtaining such a probate bond can be costly and depends on the value of the property subject to the bond. If there is a Will and if it waives the bond requirement, then the California Probate Court will often – but not always – waive the bond.

The costs of paying the mortgage, property taxes and homeowner’s insurance for the real property need to be paid as well so as to avoid foreclosure by the lender or the imposition of a lien by the local tax authority.

Attorney’s fees are also based on the value of the gross estate. The fee is calculated based on a statutory formula. The fees are 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, and 1/2% of the next $15,000,000. For estates larger than $25,000,000, the court will determine the fee.

The fee for the executor or administrator is the same fee based on the same rate as attorney’s fees are calculated. Fee discounts are subject to the probate attorney’s, executor’s or administrator’s discretion.

To discuss this and other probate questions, call Mitchell A. Port.