Probate is a court-supervised process for identifying a person’s assets, rights, and obligations and handling his or her final legal and financial matters after his or her death. The main objective of probate administration is the collection and transfer of property belonging to someone who has recently died (decedent) to his or her heirs or beneficiaries. However, probate always includes paying the decedent’s taxes, settling debts, deciding if a decedent’s will is valid, and other important post-death matters.
A person dies either "testate" or "intestate." Those terms are defined below:
- Testate - Decedent (testator) leaves a will; beneficiaries and disposition of estate are set forth in the will.
- Intestate - Decedent leaves no will; property is distributed to heirs in accordance with the California Probate Code.
California probate is complicated, expensive and time-consuming process. In most cases whenever a person dies without a trust or in cases where their estate exceeds $150,000 court supervision is required to oversee the probate process and approve the distributions and transfer title to rightful beneficiaries.
The cost of probate depends on the size of the estate. California Probate Code section 10810 sets the maximum fees attorneys can charge for a probate. The statutory fees are as follows:
- Four percent (4%) of the first $100,000 of the gross value of the estate;
- Three percent (3%) of the next $100,000;
- Two percent (2%) of the next $800,000;
- One percent (1%) of the next $9,000,000; and,
- One-half percent (1/2%) of the next $15,000,000.
For estates larger than $25,000,000, the court will determine a reasonable fee. In most cases, statutory fees are the only attorney fees awarded in probate matter. However, a probate court can order additional fees for cases that involve litigation and/ or involve complicated issues, such as, tax problems, real estate sales, business interest complications and/or buy outs. In addition to the statutory fees for attorneys, there are costs for appraisals, publications, court filling fees, and other miscellaneous expenses charged by the State and County. A typical estate could easily incur $1,000 to $5,000 in court costs and other mandated fees in addition to statutory attorneys’ fees.
One of the main advantages to probate is having a judge supervise the administration of a decedent’s estate. Judicial oversight ensures the interests of the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries are protected. The personal representative (or executor) of the estate is faced with many responsibilities during the probate process. Throughout probate, the personal representative is required to comply with statutory notice requirements, publication requirements, they must prepare an inventory and appraisal, prepare an estate accounts, open an estate account, handle the decedent’s tax matters, distribute assets, as well as other challenging tasks. Our attorneys are qualified and experienced in probate matters and can assist you with these tasks. We will provide you with exemplary legal service and the personal attention that you deserve.
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