How much does a probate lawyer cost

How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost

Probate lawyer and attorney costs are standardized in California and most other states. Plus, other fees and compensation also are predetermined. To help clarify, let’s discuss the four basic groups of probate lawyer costs and other fees:

Ordinary Probate Lawyer Costs

Ordinary probate attorney costs are predetermined by statute and based upon the value of adecedent’s estate. If working with a probate attorney, you shouldn’t need to pay your attorney anything up front or during the pendency of the administration. Instead, their ordinary fees will be taken from the estate as part of a petition for final distribution. To see ordinary statutory predetermined attorney costs, see the chart below.

Ordinary Executor Compensation

As it turns out, the Executor of the Will also is entitled to statutory compensation for ordinary time and effort associated with administering the probate process. It’s actually the exact same cost paid to the probate attorney, see the chart below.


Extraordinary Fees

In addition to the statutory ordinary compensation to which an executor of the will and his/her attorney may be entitled, the executor and/or attorney may also receive “extraordinary” compensation for such things as property sales and transactions, carrying on a business, tax returns, handling audits or litigation (including will contests and contested accountings), and coordinating ancillary probate administrations.  These fees are not set by statute but must be reasonable as determined and approved by the court.  They can often exceed the statutory ordinary compensation discussed above.

Court Fees

Court fees are charged by the court and associated properties. Currently, the 2019 California Court Probate Petition fee is $435. On top of this, you can expect to pay additional court fees for a probate referee, and other probate documents. Plus, there will be a cost associated with publishing your probate notice in an approved news publication. We’ll explain more below.

What does a probate lawyer charge, based on the value of the estate?

There’s a specific formula used for calculating ordinary probate attorney costs, based on the value of the estate. Those ordinary fees are always the same for estates under $25,000,000. Over $25,000,000 the court will determine a reasonable fee. Your ordinary attorney costs will be determined by the standard statutory formula.


How much does an executor of will get paid?

Quick answer: An executor or administrator of the will is entitled to be paid the same ordinary compensation as the probate attorney.

Longer answer: In many cases, the executor may decline the probate compensation, because they will be required to pay income taxes on the compensation. What does this mean? For example, if an executor is the sole beneficiary of the will, he/she is going to get all of the distributions from the estate anyway. And in many cases, they will receive those distributions tax-free. If that’s the case, then the sole beneficiary would receive more by declining the probate compensation and avoiding having to pay any income tax.  Then in effect, receiving that same compensation as part of the estate distribution, tax-free. Have questions? Call us at (424) 221-8990, we’re happy to talk through this with you.

How much are probate court fees? How many probate court fees are there?

In general, probate court fees are standardized and predictable. You may want to consider budgeting around $1000 for all the initial court fees associated with the probate process. Here’s a typical list of fees in a typical probate:

2019 California Petition to Probate Fee: $435

This $435 fee is paid to the county probate court when initially filing for probate. This is a fee that is typically paid by a beneficiary, executor, or administrator out-of-pocket.

Court Document Fees: $25 per copy

This is a fee of about $25 per copy, paid to the county probate court to receive copies of your petition to probate documents. It is typically paid by the executor or administrator of the will after the petition to probate has been approved by the county probate court.


Court-Appointed Probate Referee Fee: $75+

The probate referee approves the valuation of the estate assets, and is involved during the middle stages of the probate process. “The probate referee’s fees are set by law as a commission of 1/10th of 1 percent of the value of the property appraised by the probate referee, with a minimum fee of $75 (representing property having a value of $75,000) and a maximum fee of $10,000 (representing property having a value of $10,000,000).”

Probate Notice Publication Fee: $200

In California and most states, the executor of the will must publish the estate’s probate notice in a public newspaper or publication. Typically, the executor will publish the probate notice in a local community newspaper or magazine for about $200.

How can I save money using a probate lawyer?

Because ordinary probate lawyer fees are predetermined by statute, the best way to reduce costs is by saving time, i.e., making the probate process proceed more quickly. Choosing an experienced probate lawyer, experienced with the probate processes in the decedent’s local county probate court is a good place to start.

“Should I choose a probate lawyer near me?”

Yes, it helps. However, it’s more important to retain a probate lawyer who has experience in the decedent’s county of residence. For example, if the decedent lived in Los Angeles County, you would be best-served to retain an attorney who practices regularly in the Los Angeles Superior Court. If you live in Los Angeles, but the decedent lived in Miami, you might consider an attorney familiar with the Miami-Dade Court.

Have questions about probate attorney costs?

At RMO, we help protect clients like you everyday, and the consultation is always free. Give us a call anytime:(424) 320-9440 or email: [email protected]


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About RMO Lawyers, LLP

RMO LLP provides personal and efficient inheritance dispute services to individual and institutional clients. The firm’s attorneys focus on probate litigation involving contested trust, estate, probate, and conservatorship matters. Serving California and Texas, with offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Orange County, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area, Dallas, and Houston. For more information, please visit

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About the Author

Scott Rahn, Founding Partner

Scott Rahn resolves contests, disputes and litigation related to trusts, estates and conservatorships, creating a welcome peace of mind for clients. He represents heirs, beneficiaries, trustees and executors. He utilizes his experience to develop and implement strategies that swiftly and efficiently address the financial issues, fiduciary duties and emotional complexities underlying trust contests, estates conflicts and probate litigation.

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