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 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.
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.
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 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.
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, and here are some estate values and associated costs to help you get an idea.
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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.
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:
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.
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.
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).”
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.
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.
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.
RMO LLP serves clients in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Orange County, San Diego, Kansas City, Miami, and communities throughout California, Florida, Missouri and Kansas. Our founder, Scott E. Rahn has been named “Top 100 – Trust and Estate Litigation” by SuperLawyers, Trusts and Estates Litigator of the Year, and Best Lawyers in America for Litigation – Trusts and Estates. For a free consultation, call (424) 320-9444 or visit: https://rmolawyers.com