I’ve mentioned before that clients know they should “avoid probate,” but they’re usually not sure why–they often think the state will get their property if they have no will, or taxes will be high, or that it costs a lot. There’s some truth in all of these–the state will hold your money if no heirs can be found (though once the heirs claim the funds from the state’s unclaimed property division, the state releases them), estate taxes can be higher if you haven’t done your planning (though most people will not face estate taxes and the state no longer has an inheritance tax), and probate is indeed expensive.
Probate costs, though, don’t go to the government–most of the expense is for the attorney and the executor, who each earn a fee allowed by the California Probate Code. There are some other expenses, like the court filing fee, the newspaper publication fee, the probate bond and an appraisal fee (which must be done by state-appointed Probate Referees), but the bulk of the costs are due to attorney fees and executor fees.
The fees are based on a percentage of the estate’s value, and are based on the gross value, not the net value after liens and expenses:
Attorneys and executors may also be due higher fees, called extraordinary fees, based on their hourly rates, if they have to deal with more complicated issues like selling real estate, tax disputes, court battles on creditor claims or will contests.
How Can I Help?
If you have questions about probate, or would like to see if it’s necessary in your case, give me a call at (888) 503-7615 or use our contact form. Sometimes we can find ways to avoid probate or at least lower its expense. I can also answer your questions about living trusts, irrevocable trusts, special needs trusts, trust administration, will contests and trust contests, or elder abuse, in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.