To understand probate you should understand everyone has a will or a plan, whether you create it or by default. Even if you have not made out a will or a trust, you still have a plan. A plan dictated by the laws of the state where you reside upon your death. Making a will is not a way to avoid probate. The court has a procedure that changes the legal ownership of your property after your death. Probate makes sure it is your last valid will, appoints the executor named in your will and supervises the executor’s work. You can do several things now that can help your executor and family later, hopefully much later.

What is probate?

Who is responsible for the probate process?

What is a probate referee?

What is a trust sale?

What should I expect with regards to communication?

What about marketing the property?

How long does it take to get through probate?

How much does probate cost?

California Probate Code section 10810 sets the maximum statutory fees that attorneys can charge for a probate. Higher fees can be ordered by a court for more complicated cases. The fees are four percent of the first $100,000 of the estate, three percent of the next $100,000, two percent of the next $800,000, one percent of the next $9,000,000, and one-half percent of the next $15,000,000. For estates larger than $25,000,000, the court will determine the fee for the amount that is greater than $25,000,000.

The fees listed below are the California statutory fees used to compensate attorneys and executors in probate cases for various sizes of estates. If both the attorney and the executor receive a fee, the amount paid will be double that shown below.  The value of the estate is determined, in general, by the inventory for the estate.  (If an accounting of the estate has been waived, the total value of the estate for attorney’s fees purposes is the inventory, plus gains on sales, minus losses on sales.)  Debts are not included in determining attorney’s fees, and if a house is appraised at $1,000,000, for example, and it has a mortgage of $800,000, it is still considered a $1,000,000 asset for the purpose of calculating attorney’s fees.

 Estate Value

Statutory Fee













































The fee charged to file a probate petition is $395, but may be slightly higher in some counties due to surcharges.  There will be an additional $395 filing fee when the petition for final distribution is filed.  There are other fees for publication of the probate notice, for the probate referee, and for certification of copies of court documents.

APPRAISAL OF THE ESTATE: Estates are appraised by probate referees, who are appointed by the State Controller to determine the fair market value of the asset. The fair market value includes mortgages and other debts, which can result in an appraisal of the property that is higher than the equity that the deceased owned in the property. Probate referees receive a fee based on .1 percent of the assets that have been appraised.

FEES CAN GO HIGHER: In probates that are complicated by lawsuits or tax problems, the attorney and executor can ask the judge to approve fees that are higher than those set by state law.

ADVANTAGES OF PROBATE: The proceedings are controlled by a judge, who can decide disputes between heirs or between the heirs and the executor. Creditors are required to submit their claims against the estate within a four-month period, provided they have been notified of the probate. The executor is required, in most cases, to prepare an accounting and report of the executor’s activities.

DISADVANTAGES OF PROBATE: The cost is usually much higher than would be required for the administration of a living trust for an estate valued at the same amount. It usually takes longer to probate an estate than to administer a trust. Most estates don’t need the supervision of the court unless disputes occur.


Dominion West Properties, Inc.
4045 Bonita Road
Suite 307
Bonita, CA 91902
Phone: (619) 940-5753

CA DRE #01443317


Miguel Contreras and Dominion West Properties, Inc. are not lawyers or a law firm. We do not offer legal advice. Information contained within this website, our publications, our client agreements, client communications, and oral communications are not, nor intended to be, legal advice. Read more
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