“I walked a mile with pleasure, she chattered all the way, but left me none the wiser for all she had to say. I walked a mile with sorrow and ne’er a word said she, but oh the things I learned from her when sorrow walked with me.”

– Robert Browning Hamilton.

Probate is a complex area of the law that handles the transfer of assets when someone dies. Probate will be necessary when a person dies with or without a will and has a gross estate in California of over $150,000. 

There are many misconceptions about probate and what happens if you die with or without a will. The most common misconception is that the state will get your money. This is not true. There is no reason to fear probate. If you are in a probate situation there are many things you can do to protect yourself and the assets left behind by your loved one.

If you find yourself in a probate situation, either because it was planned or it just happened, remember this important information to help you get through it.

It is not advisable to try to handle probate yourself. There are several steps necessary to probate an estate and each of them has to be specifically and timely followed in order to close the probate and distribute assets. Attempting probate on your own can be frustrating and may end up being more costly if there are other beneficiaries or heirs that sue you for not doing it right.

Many people wait to go through probate or try to avoid it because they think they cannot afford a probate attorney.

Unfortunately, probate is usually unavoidable so you might as well get it over with. Also remember that c. This means that you generally do not have to pay anything out of your pocket to probate an estate. There are court costs, but if the situation warrants it, we will work with you to advance those costs when necessary to help you get through the process.

We are here to answers your questions in a way you understand andwill respond to your inquiries in a timely manner. This will help make the process more understandable and you will get through it quicker and with less stress.


A typical estate in California is approximately $400,000. Here is a sample of what a probate would cost in that situation. Of course keep in mind that this is just a sample, and many factors can change these costs. Obviously if the estate size is less than $400,000, the fees.will be less and if greater than $400,000, the fees will be more.

Court Costs
$435 Filing Fee

The filing fee is paid to the court in the county where the person died for the court to open a probate file for the administrator or executor to bring the case to court $250 Publication Fee

Publication of a Notice is required by law when an estate is probated. The publication fee can range from approximately $175 to $450 and gets paid to the newspaper that publishes the notice for the estate $400 Probate Referee Fee

The probate referee is an appraiser who works for the court to determine the value of the estate that is being probated. Our example is a $400,000 estate, and the probate referee fee is .001% of the value. In this case, that would be $400. Keep in mind the probate referee can charge for their costs – copies, gas, etc., so it can be a little more.

$4,000 Bond Premium
Often times the court will order a bond for the administrator or executor to serve. The bond premium can vary based upon your credit history but generally will not exceed 1% of the estate value. Bond can be waived, which is a great cost savings. It can be waived by the will or by the heirs or beneficiaries. It can also be reduced or eliminated if you agree not to take any action related to the estate, such as selling property, without court approval. Obviously the bond is a large expense but we can work with you to eliminate or reduce this expense if warranted.

$435 Closing Filing Fee
Some counties require a filing fee for the final distribution of the estate. If your probate is opened in such a county, this additional filing fee would be paid to the court when you petition for final distribution.
Attorney & Administrator/Executor Fees

An attorney and the administrator or executor are both entitled to the same fee. If you are named or nominated as administrator or executor, you can take the same fee as the attorney gets paid. Keep in mind however, if you take the fee, it is considered income and will be taxed. Many people waive it because they are beneficiaries or heirs and will receive a distribution anyway. You will have to weigh the pros and cons yourself.

The probate fee schedule is 4% of the first $100,000, 3% of the next $100,000, 2% of the next $800,000 and 1% above $1 million. In our $400,000 example the fees would be:
4% $100,000 $4,000
3% $100,000 $3,000
2% $200,000 $4,000

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