Probate court paperwork.

The Real Cost of Probate in California

It can be expensive and time-consuming to take an estate through the probate courts in California. There are many fees set by the Probate Code that will come out of the estate before the beneficiaries receive a penny. Sometimes, people have to sell the family home or farm to pay the probate costs. 

Many people could avoid the need for probate with some thoughtful estate planning. Loew Law Group’s California estate planning attorneys can help you set up a plan to help you and your heirs.

Our experienced probate attorneys are happy to help you and your family through the difficult probate administration process, if a court proceeding becomes necessary.  But we’re also here to help you plan ahead, and avoid this outcome for your own estate if possible.

Who Has to Go Through Probate

Your family will have to go through probate court to get your assets if your estate is worth more than $166,250 – unless you took steps to avoid probate, like setting up a living trust or arranging for the transfer of assets outside of probate. The court will charge around $400 for the filing fee to start the probate case. You will have to pay a variety of additional expenses, like obtaining certified copies of any court documents you need, and publishing notice of the probate in a local newspaper. 

If the estate has a value of less than $166,250, you usually do not have to go through formal probate proceedings. But for assets of greater value, a probate may be required. Two types of probate cases go through the probate courts in California – estates in which the decedent left a valid will, and intestate estates, where the deceased person did not have a valid will or trust.

Statutory Probate Fees

California sets statutory attorney and personal representative fees for cases that go through the probate courts. Both the probate attorney and the personal representative can put in a claim for fees.

If there are any disputes about who will receive which assets and what proportion of the items, the attorney fees can skyrocket well above the number shown above.  Work performed by attorneys to resolve such disputes is considered to be “extraordinary services,” for which an hourly fee is typically charged on top of the statutory probate fees. Your family will only get what is left after the payment of all of the fees and expenses.

Also, the “value” of the estate for purposes of calculating the fees is not the net value. Let’s say that the estate includes a $1,000,000 house. Although the property has a $750,000 mortgage, the court will base the fees for the personal representative and probate attorney on the $1,000,000 amount, not on the net value of $250,000.

Another Real Cost of Having to Go Through Probate in California

Another “cost” of having to go through probate in California is the hardship your family can experience when they have to wait a year or two before they receive the assets from your estate. Your spouse, children, and other loved ones might have to struggle to make ends meet while they are dealing with the grief of losing you.  

You can spare your family both the financial and time costs of probate in California if you set up an estate plan designed to avoid probate. Talk with our California estate planning attorneys today. Our California estate planning attorneys can help you create the documents you need to protect your loved ones and your estate.