• Erin Riswold

The Cost of Probate

Probate can be an expensive process which is why many people want to avoid it. But how much does probate really cost? In this article, I’ll break down the four major costs of probate: (1) Court Costs and Fees; (2) Attorneys’ Fees; (3) Personal Representative Fees; and (4) Your time and privacy.


Court Costs and Other Fees

First, there are the court filing fees. There are two major filings with probate: the initial petition and the petition for final distribution. Each filing costs $495. In addition to filing fees, remote appearance fees, certified copy fees, and e-filing fees can range from $100 to $500 or more. In total, you should estimate $1,000 to $1,500 paid in fees to the court.


Next, an inventory and appraisal must be completed for all assets of the probate estate. If there is any real property in the estate, the personal representative must hire a probate referee to appraise the properties. Probate referees will charge 1% of 1% of the appraised value of the properties plus travel, photo, and report fees. So, the probate referee fees will be in the $500 range even for a modest estate where there is a house.


Finally, a notice of hearing must be published in a local newspaper for 3 consecutive weeks before the first hearing. A reasonable fee is usually about $400, but the cost of publishing notice varies depending on the newspaper.


All in all, the court costs and other fees typically range from $2,000 to $3,000, but could be much higher, depending on the size of the estate.


Attorney Fees

Attorney fees are calculated as a percentage of the total estate by statute under Probate Code Section 10810. There is a sliding scale where the attorney will take 4% of the first $100,000, 3% of the next $100,000, 2% of the next $800,000, and 1% of the next $9,000,000. The fees continue from there for estates that are over 10 million dollars, but for purposes of this article, let’s assume the estate is under a million.


To put this confusing sliding scale into an example, let’s say the decedent’s estate consists of a house worth $500,000 and a few bank accounts that total another $100,000. Attorneys fees are calculated as follows:

4% of $100,000 = $4,000

3% of $100,000 = $3,000

2% of $400,000 = $8,000

Total attorney’s fees = $15,000 (yikes!)


Personal Representative Fees

The personal representative of the estate or the “executor” is the person who is in charge of working with the attorney to get the estate settled, accounted for, and transferred to all the right people. The personal representative is also entitled to a fee for his or her services and the fee is calculated the same way as the attorney’s. So now you’ve got another $15,000 bill on your hands to pay the personal representative.


Your Time and Privacy

The last cost of probate is not monetary, but can be one of the most unwelcome costs of all: your time and privacy. A quick, simple probate, usually takes at least 8 months from start to finish, and that’s assuming there are not unexpected roadblocks and the courts aren’t impacted to delay the process. It’s not uncommon for a probate to take a year or two for the process to be completely wrapped up.


Next, your privacy. Part of the probate process is filing the decedent’s will with the probate court, which becomes public record for anyone to look at. In fact, the entire probate process is handled in the courts and all documents that are filed with the court become public record. If you’re anything like me, you’d rather not have your estate and family drama on display to the public, thank you very much!


Overall, the probate process can cost tens of thousands of dollars and a few years of your life – no wonder everyone talks about avoiding probate!


So how do you avoid all of these costs? Learn more about whether you might need a living trust. It could end up saving your family a lot of time, money, and stress. Contact the law office of Koons and Riswold today to learn more.

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