Hi there, my name’s Miranda Dressler and I’m an attorney with the Law Offices of Bridget Mackay in Petaluma, California. Today I’m going to talk to you a little bit about probate and why it’s so expensive.

In California probate is particularly expensive. And, you know, there’s a few reasons why that is. The main reason is because of the attorney fees and the executor fees.

Those fees and that fee structure is set by statute. Meaning that it can’t be negotiated, and the fees are based off basically a percentage of the total value of the assets going through the process. And that doesn’t account for any debts that might be associated. For example, if there is a house being probated that’s worth total, $1,000,000. It doesn’t matter that there might be a very large mortgage due on that house maybe even in the amount of five or six hundred thousand dollars. The attorney fees and executor fees are going to be based on that gross value of $1,000,000. And in that example the attorney fees are going to be about $24,000 and the executor fees are also going to be about $24,000. So right there off the top you have almost $50,000 in fees just, you know, by this one asset.

Other costs that are associated with a probate are going to be court filing fees. The probate court charges fees anytime you file anything with them basically. So, there’s going to be a large court filing fee at the beginning of the matter. Sometimes during the matter and then at the end. Generally, it turns out to be around $1,500 to $2,000.

There are fees to appraise the assets. There are fees from an accountant that needs to do the taxes of the estate. There might be other fees associated with a probate for example if an investigator needs to be hired to track down beneficiaries or heirs. And all of these things just really add up and make probate very, very expensive. That’s why many people, instead of just having a will as their main estate planning document, are going for a trust. Because a properly funded and a well drafted living trust will avoid probate completely at death. And it’s a much more cost-effective option.

So, if you have any questions about this topic or any other estate planning talk a topic, I recommend that you contact an experienced estate planning attorney in your area. Thank you.