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Value of Probate Estate

Estimated Cost of Probate







How expensive is Probate?

The very short answer – estimate about 8% of your estate.  Probate consists of court fees, fees for the attorney and fees for the executor.  The costs vary depending on the complexity of the assets, but include filing fees, publication fees, probate referee fees, bond fees, appraisal fees, moving fees, storage fees, etc.  A rough estimate of 2% of the size of the estate works pretty well for an average estate, but closer to 4% for smaller estates.  The attorney fees and executor fees are fixed by California law, which generally provides for a graduated fee depending on the size of the probate estate.  The size of the probate estate is the full fair market value of all the assets, regardless of any liens or mortgages on the assets.  Once the value of the probate assets are computed, both the Attorney and the Executor each get:

A. 4% of the first $100,000

B. 3% of the next $100,000

C. 2% of the next $800,000

D. 1% of the next $9,000,000

E. 0.5% of the next $15,000,000

F. Over $25 million a “reasonable” amount to be determined by the court.

Let’s look at an example to see how this might work.

John owns a house worth $500,000 with a first mortgage of $300,000.  The probate court is not concerned that John only has $200,000 of equity, the value of the asset is $500,000.  Let us say this is John’s only major asset, but in addition to the $300,000 mortgage, he has $20,000 of credit card debt.  The probate estate is valued at $500,000, so the costs would roughly be $10,000, the minimum attorney fee would be $13,000, and the minimum executor fee would be $13,000.  Of John’s $500,000 home, you must subtract $356,000, which means only $144,000 will be distributed.  The $36,000 of probate costs and fees could have been completely eliminated with proper estate planning.

Some other short examples:

The estate is valued by a probate referee and may be challenged by any interested creditor.  It also becomes the tax basis for determining future capital gains taxes, if any.  If complications arise during the probate process, the attorney may ask for more money.  The above chart shows the statutory minimums.  Probate is a complicated process.  It is highly technical and procedurally difficult.  Mistakes can cost money and time.  A skilled attorney can shepherd a probate through the system with the least problem and expense.

Frequently Asked Questions about Estate Administration