You may have heard the phrase “avoid probate” mentioned in materials related to estate planning, and wondered what the big deal about probate really is. There are many reasons to avoid probate, not the least of which is that it causes delay and hassle for beneficiaries, and can result in legal battles and family in-fighting. But one aspect of probate that is always true it that it costs money, from the cost of fees to hiring a probate attorney and personal representative.
Probate Court Fees
The initial filing fee for a probate case in Los Angeles County is $435 as of October 5, 2017. While this may seem reasonable, keep in mind that this is only one of dozens of potential court fees that can add up in probate court, with many fees also at $435 and even going up to $650. Here are just a few of the potentially costly fees that parties may face in probate court:
- Conservatorship Review Fee ($425)
- Petition concerning an advance health care directive and objection or other opposition ($435)
- Spousal or domestic partnership property petition and objection or other opposition ($435)
- Petition for order concerning sale, lease, encumbrance, grant of an option, purchase, conveyance, or exchange of property ($435)
- Petition concerning power of attorney and objection or other opposition ($435)
Again, these are just a few of dozens of potential fees a party might encounter in probate court. This is in addition to the cost of a court reporter, which is $764 per day (4 hours or more).
These fees may come out of the estate, or may be paid by other parties in the matter (e.g. other family members) depending on the source of the action.
The Cost of a Probate Attorney and Personal Representative
In addition to court fees, there is also going to be the costs of a probate attorney and a personal representative. There will generally be a probate attorney that represents the estate itself, and there will be a personal representative (sometimes called an executor) who is either named in the will or appointed by the court to oversee the distribution of the estate.
Probate attorneys often charge by the hour at typical attorney rates, but their maximum compensation for a probate matter when representing the estate is capped by California law at the following amounts:
(1) Four percent on the first one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000).
(2) Three percent on the next one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000).
(3) Two percent on the next eight hundred thousand dollars ($800,000).
(4) One percent on the next nine million dollars ($9,000,000).
(5) One-half of 1 percent on the next fifteen million dollars ($15,000,000).
(6) For all amounts above twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000), a reasonable amount to be determined by the court.
Note that both the attorney and the personal representative receive compensation up to these levels, meaning that, for example, the attorney can receive fees of up to $4,000 for the first $100,000 in the estate, and the personal representative can also receive compensation up to $4,000 for that same amount.
There are numerous strategies that individuals can incorporate during their life to avoid the probate process altogether, and an experienced estate planning attorney can provide you comprehensive guidance in achieving this goal.
Work with a Pasadena Probate and Estate Planning Attorney
Christopher B. Johnson is an estate planning attorney in Pasadena, CA who has helped thousands of individuals and families over the past 18 years in creating and reaching their estate planning objectives as well as in navigating the probate process in California to achieve positive outcomes. Schedule a consultation with him today to discuss your estate planning and/or probate goals.