California Probate is Very Expensive.
The expense of a California Probate depends upon three considerations: costs, compensation, and contests.
Court Costs and Fees.
The first component, “costs,” means expenses charged by third parties, such as court fees, publication costs, court appraiser fees, etc. As of 2012, California Court fees and publication costs usually run about $850 for an average probate. Court appraiser fees are generally around 1% to 2% of the value of the property appraised.
Attorney and Executor Compensation.
- 4% of the first $100,000 value (= up to $4,000)
- plus 3% of the next $100,000 value (= up to $3,000)
- plus 2% of the next $800,000 value (= up to $16,000)
- plus 1% of the next $9 million value (= up to $90,000)
- for $10 million value and above, the court determines compensation
“Value” means the gross fair market value of the assets being probated, i.e., without deduction for debts or liens (such as mortgages). You should also note that the executor and the attorney are each get paid that amount. So, for example, an estate valued at $1 million will result in a compensation expense of $46,000 ($23,000 for the executor and $23,000 for the attorney.)
Will Contests and Other Court Objections.
The third consideration is “contests.” These are events beyond a routine probate. Lawsuits initiated by creditors, matters contested by interested parties, or court actions the executor must bring to recover property from others, are examples of matters beyond a routine probate. They may result in significant additional costs and/or compensation fees, depending upon many factors, such as the nature of the dispute, the length of time it is contested, the degree of cooperation among the parties, which court processes are used, etc.
Use a Trust to Avoid California Probate
As you can see, a California probate can be quite expensive. One way to avoid these expenses is to setup a revocable living trust (also called an inter vivos trust). Assets in a trust do not need to be probated!