How Much Does Probate Cost?

HOW MUCH DOES PROBATE COST IN CALIFORNIA?

Attorney & Personal Representative Compensation

For Ordinary Services

 The personal representative and the attorney are each allowed compensation for their services.  Unless the Will makes special provision for compensation, “ordinary” services is fixed by California statute and is based upon the overall value of the estate.  This value generally includes the inventory value of the probate estate and income received, less any losses incurred during the administration of the estate. Compensation is not paid until after the court orders payment.

Fees for ordinary services are calculated on the basis of the amount of the estate accounted for, as follows:

4% on the first $100,000 or fraction thereof;

3% on the next $100,000 or fraction thereof;

2% on the next $800,000 or fraction thereof;

1% on the next $9,000.000 or fraction thereof;

½ of 1% on the next $15,000,000; and

a reasonable fee on the excess over $25,000,000.

Thus, the fee for an estate of $500,000 would be calculated as follows:

4% on $100,000                                  $  4,000

3% on $100,000                                  $  3,000

2% on $300,000                                  $  6,000

Total                                                    $13,000

This amount goes to each the attorney and the personal representative.

 

Expenses of Probate Administration and Compensation

of Personal Representative and the Probate Attorney

 The expenses of administration may include the following:

  • Court fees
  • Publication costs
  • Certification fees
  • Surety bond premiums
  • California Probate Referee’s fees
  • Agency fees
  • Insurance premiums
  • Appraisal fees
  • Expenses of selling assets
  • Accountants’ fees
  • Personal representative’s statutory compensation
  • Attorney’s statutory compensation

The largest costs are usually the payment of compensation to the personal representative and to the attorney.

 Compensation for Ordinary Services

Of Personal Representative and Attorney

 As personal representative you are allowed compensation for your services.  Unless the Will makes special provision for your compensation, the amount of compensation for your “ordinary” services is fixed by California statute and is based upon the overall value of the estate.  This value generally includes the inventory value of the probate estate and income received, less any losses incurred during the administration of the estate.  Compensation is not paid until after the court orders payment.

Courtesy of the Law Offices of Ann Saponara

39510 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Suite 190

Fremont, California 94538

(510) 797-8902

 

 

Fees for ordinary services are calculated on the basis of the amount of the estate accounted for, as follows:

 

4% on the first $100,000 or fraction thereof;

3% on the next $100,000 or fraction thereof;

2% on the next $800,000 or fraction thereof;

1% on the next $9,000.000 or fraction thereof;

½ of 1% on the next $15,000,000; and

a reasonable fee on the excess over $25,000,000.

 

Thus, the fee for an estate of $500,000 would be calculated as follows:

 

4% on $100,000                                  $  4,000

3% on $100,000                                  $  3,000

2% on $300,000                                  $  6,000

 

Total                                                    $13,000

 

The same schedule is used to determine the compensation paid to the attorney for their “ordinary” services.

 

Compensation for Extraordinary Services

Of Personal Representative and Attorneys

 

In addition to the statutory commissions and fees discussed above, the Probate Court may, in proper instances, authorize payment of additional compensation to the personal representative or to the personal representative’s attorney, or to both, for extraordinary services rendered in the administration of the estate.  There is no prescribed schedule of compensation for such services.  The amount in each instance is fixed by the Court on the basis of a Declaration by the applicant regarding the nature and extent of the extraordinary services rendered to the estate.

 

For example, if it was necessary for you to operate the decedent’s business under court order or to participate in litigation involving the probate estate, such services would be regarded as in addition to the ordinary services you are expected to render in administering the estate.  In that case you may be entitled to apply for and receive additional compensation for such services.

 

Similarly, I, as the attorney, am frequently called upon to perform legal services in connection with the administration of an estate that are regarded as extraordinary in nature and are not covered by the statutory fees provided for by the Probate Code.  Such services may include the following fairly common situations:  handling sales or mortgages of real or personal property; contesting or defending litigated claims against the estate; handling litigation relating to property of the estate; arranging for the conduct of ancillary administration in other states where the decedent owned property; and preparing petitions for instructions to determine heirship, etc.

 

My fees for extraordinary services are based primarily on my hourly rate, taking into account the size and complexity of the matter at issue, the results achieved and the benefit ultimately conferred on the estate. I will periodically consult with you regarding the probable fees to be incurred as matters calling for such “extraordinary services” arise.  Of course, all extraordinary fees regarding probate assets must ultimately be approved by the Court.

 

The Court also looks to the amount of time expended by both the personal representative and the attorney in performing ordinary and extraordinary services.  Therefore, it is important to keep track of the specific services you perform and the time you spend performing each service in the administration of this estate.

Groucho Marx’s estate planning mishaps

Groucho Marx was a great character.  Here in Fremont, his movies are still shown at the Niles Essanay Museum on Saturday nights (http://www.nilesfilmmuseum.org).  Less happy & lesser known is that Groucho Marx got caught up in a conservatorship proceeding in probate court when he became older.

Conservatorships, sometimes also called guardianship proceedings, can happen not just to the elderly but to anyone who loses capacity to manage their own affairs.  But they can be avoided.  It is important to have an updated Durable Power of Attorney for Property Management which designates an agent and an alternate agent to act as your “attorney-in-fact” if you are declared to lack capacity by a doctor or if you give your agent permission to act on your behalf.  It’s a very powerful document because the person can sign their name on your behalf.  So if I had been the attorney-in-fact for Groucho Marx (although I’m not that old!), I would have signed his royalty checks “Ann Saponara as attorney-in-fact for Groucho Marx” and then deposited into his bank account.  This last part is important because the attorney-in-fact has to act in the best interests of the person whose affairs he or she is managing.  I would have had a fiduciary duty to Groucho.  You should pick someone you trust implicitly for a Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Management.  It can allow your family and loved ones to avoid the need to file for a conservatorship or guardianship.

In conservatorship and guardianship proceedings, a court investigator talks to the person to be conserved, he or she testifies, the family testifies, and a judge determines if that person is fit to make their own decisions.  The person appointed conservator or guardian often has to post bond, which can be expensive.  Regular accountings must be done and filed with the court about how the money is being spent.  These are important safeguards and we are fortunate to have the Probate Court oversee this process when there is not already a plan in place and someone very much needs help managing their finances and care.

You can take control now, though.  If you would rather have your spouse or a friend or a professional whom you implicitly trust manage your affairs for you without the need of going through Probate court, I would be happy to prepare a Durable Power of Attorney for you.  Best regards, Ann Saponara