How are probate fees calculated?

The state of California determines probate attorney fee commissions based on the estate’s total value. For estates valued over $150,000, but less than $25,000,000, the statutory fees for attorneys and executors in California’s probate cases are a sum of the following:

  • 4% on the initial $100,000
  • 3% on the subsequent $100,000
  • 2% on the next $800,000
  • 1% of subsequent $9,000,000
  • .5% of subsequent $15,000,000

A reasonable amount is determined by the court for amounts above $25,000,000. Additionally, the attorney and personal representative may request and be permitted by the court to receive an amount above the standard fee if extraordinary services are performed.

Is there a way to avoid probate fees?

While DIY probate is an option, it isn’t easy and is not recommended for several reasons, including:

  • Failure to correctly interpret the will
  • Incorrect filing of probate and inheritance tax forms
  • Errors in record keeping and inaccurately assessing estate debts

Learn more about the common pitfalls of DIY probate here.

What property is subject to probate administration?

Property subject to probate administration generally includes the gross value of real estate, business interests, investments, bank accounts, and personal property. Retirement accounts, life insurance, and assets placed in a living trust are generally not subject to probate administration.   

What should I bring when I meet with my probate attorney?

Being prepared with the necessary documentation is essential when you first meet with your attorney. Such documentation includes:

  • Will & trust documents
  • Estate documentation, including deeds, titles, and insurance policies
  • A list of assets
  • Deceased’s personal identification paperwork, including social security number and death certificate
  • Contact information for beneficiaries
  • Income and gift tax returns for last three years
  • Business agreement documents, if applicable

An in-depth explanation of what to bring to a meeting with your probate attorney can be found here.

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