How Much Does Probate Cost

How Much Does Probate Cost in California: Understanding the Financial Implications

Probate is the court-supervised procedure for transferring a deceased person’s assets to their heirs. While it’s often viewed as a routine legal process, it can become both time-consuming and costly, especially in California. For those who have assets exceeding a certain value in the decedent’s name, the Probate Court’s oversight becomes unavoidable, often adding emotional and financial stress for the heirs.

Why People Prefer to Avoid Probate

Clients usually prefer sidestepping the probate process for three significant reasons:

  1. Slow Process: Probate can be excruciatingly slow, taking on average 1-2 years to complete.
  2. Lack of Privacy: Probate records are public documents, thereby disclosing the details of your estate to the general public.
  3. High Cost: Probate is often substantially more expensive than proactively engaging in estate planning. In some cases, probate can cost up to ten times the amount it would take to establish an estate plan.
Common Misconceptions About Probate Costs

A prevalent myth is that the government pockets the money collected from probate. In reality, the attorney managing the probate process for the family typically receives these fees. Additional charges can also accumulate, such as newspaper filings, court filing fees, and fees for court-appointed appraisers.

What The Probate Code Says About Costs

California Probate Code Sections 10810 – 10814 lay out the fees that an attorney can charge for managing the probate process. Here’s a simplified breakdown:

  • 4% on the first $100,000 of the estate.
  • 3% on the next $100,000.
  • 2% on the next $800,000.
  • 1% on the next $9,000,000.
  • 0.5% on the next $15,000,000.
  • For estates valued over $25,000,000, the court will determine a reasonable fee.

Note: The probate court calculates these percentages based on the total value of the estate, without considering any debts or mortgages. For example, if a house in the estate is worth $300,000, probate fees will be $9,000, regardless of any mortgage on the property.

Takeaway: Avoiding Probate Costs

If you’d like to understand how much your estate could potentially cost in probate, consult an estate planning expert. Taking a proactive approach by creating a comprehensive estate plan can save you and your heirs both time and money in the long run.


The intricacies of probate costs in California can be complex and often come as a surprise to the unprepared. The process is not just emotionally taxing but also financially burdensome. Understanding these costs is the first step in deciding whether or not to pursue alternatives like trusts or other estate planning measures. Contact a qualified estate planning attorney today to secure your assets and safeguard your family’s future.


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