Is probate expensive in California?

And the short answer is yes, it is expensive in most cases relative to doing other types of estate planning that might help you avoid probate. The fees that are charged in probate are first, the executor is entitled to be paid for his or her service of being the executor of the probate estate. The reason for that is being the executor is a lot of work. The fee that the executor is able to be paid is a percentage of the gross estate value. What that means is it’s the fair market value of all of the probate assets on the date of death of the decedent without subtracting any of the debts.

And so if someone owned, for example, a million dollar house but it had an $800,000 mortgage, the probate fee would be based on the million dollar fair market value of the house. Now, the percentage is a stair step down percentage. So it starts at 4% and it decreases as the value of the assets increase and it’s a percentage that is based upon each level or each value of assets. And so for example, it’s 4% for the first 100 thousand, 3% for the next 100 thousand, 2% of the 200 thousand to a million, and so on. For a million dollar estate, the probate fee is 2.3%.

Now, the second cost of probate comes from attorneys fees. The probate law says that an executor can hire an attorney to help him or her and the attorney is paid in the same way as the executor is, as a percentage of the gross estate value. And the percentages are the same. So for example, with a million dollar estate the executor would receive 2.3% or $23,000 and then the attorney would also receive 2.3% or $23,000 on a million dollar estate. And so this is significant amount of money and cost to have someone’s estate go through probate.

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