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What Does Probate Cost in California?

When estimating the possible cost of probate, it’s important to consider court fees, attorney and executor fees, costs for required services by additional professionals (fees to publish notice, fees for accountants, appraisers, etc.), as well as the cost of bond which is generally required of the Estate representative.

Probate is a lengthy and very technical process that is not easily navigated by a layperson.

In effort to avoid hiring and paying a Probate Lawyer, laypeople might attempt Probate on their own, only to be faced with a number of continuances by the Court when their documents are not in order, or whey they don’t correctly and timely follow the complex process of estate administration. Invariably, even those who managed to “open” probate on their own, eventually realize how difficult it is to “close” the estate on their own, and end up hiring a Probate Lawyer to help complete the administration - so that the estate assets can be distributed to the heirs.

Hiring an experienced Probate Lawyer can cut the time a layperson spends in Probate Court dramatically, thus greatly minimizing the administration costs. The cost of bond alone (which can be thousands of dollars), is paid annually. Consider hiring an experienced Probate Lawyer who can very efficiently bring the administration to completion in a year or so, versus staying in Probate for two, three or more years, as a layperson is “learning” by trial and error, continuance after continuance, how to navigate the process, while paying the bond premium for years on end, and incurring many filing fees due to refilling documents that needed to be corrected, time after time.

How Much Does Hiring a Probate Lawyer Cost?

The cost of Probate is set by law in the Sections 10810-10814 of the California Probate Code. This is why probate fees are referred to as “Statutory Fees.” California’s statutory fee schedule outlines a graduated scale for calculating the fees that apply, which are evenly split between the Estate Representative (Executor or Administrator) and the Attorney for the Estate. (In reality, the Probate Attorney does about 95% of the work, despite the fact that they SHARE the fees 50/50 with the Estate Representative).

This probate fee schedule provides a fair overview of the “Ordinary” or “Statutory” fees that are calculated based on the GROSS value of the estate as follows:

  • 4% on the first $100,000 of an estate
  • 3% on the next $100,000 of an estate
  • 2% on the next $800,000 of an estate
  • 1% on the next $9 million of an estate
  • 0.5% on the next $15 million of an estate

The gross value of the Estate is determined by a court-appointed appraiser, known as the Probate Referee.


In addition to the statutory fees, there is a plethora of costs which must be incurred – court filing fees, publication fees, the Probate Referee’s fee, the cost of bond (paid each year while the estate is probated), etc. - the sum of which can easily exceed thousands of dollars.

Moreover, certain legal services that might be required by the Estate are not classified as “ordinary services” and fall outside the “statutory” compensation – such “extraordinary services” to the Estate are usually billed on an hourly basis and approved by the court prior to payment as “extraordinary fees.

The sum total of all these ordinary fees, extraordinary fees, and costs of administration, makes Probate prohibitively expensive in California. Unfortunately, Probate is inevitable when a person dies with property titled in their name, where no beneficiaries were named, or named beneficiaries are also deceased. This is usually the case when one dies owning real estate in their name alone.

You Can Help Your Loved Ones Avoid Probate

Probate can be easily avoided by setting up an estate plan which includes, at a very minimum, a living Trust and a Pour Over Will. If you wish to preserve as much of your wealth as possible for your loved ones, you can do so by establishing a living Trust and signing a General Grant and Assignment and a Pour Over Will. Those documents, as well as properly funding your Trust, not only avoid Probate but also offer many tax-saving and asset protection tools to further maximize that which goes to your loved ones.

Contact the Law Offices of Maria N. Jonsson, PC

If you need efficient assistance with Probate administration, or if you wish to avoid probate of your estate by setting up a living Trust as part of a comprehensive estate plan, the Law Offices of Maria N. Jonsson, PC is here to help.

For additional insight, schedule a consultation with our experienced attorney at the Law Offices of Maria N. Jonsson, PC.

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