Probate, trust, guardianship and inheritance litigation
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Guide to Fees and Costs In California Probate

By Andrew Gold, Esq.

At the beginning of most California probate matters, a common question is how much is it all going to cost, and who pays for it.  Use this guide as an overview of the usual fees and costs in a California probate.

What Fees are Paid To A California Personal Representative?

A personal representative in California is entitled to compensation for ordinary services provided to the estate.  California Probate Code § 10800.  These fees are also called statutory fees, because they are provided by statute.  The California probate Code also allows for additional fees to be paid for extraordinary services.  California Probate Code §10801.

What Are Considered Ordinary Services of the Personal Representative In California?

As set forth above, fees for ordinary services of the personal representative are set forth by statute.  Ordinary services include marshalling the estate assets, paying claims, locating beneficiaries and heirs of the estate, and preparing the accounting.

How Are Statutory Fees For The Personal Representative Calculated?

The statutory fees for the personal representative are based on the value of the California probate estate accounted for by the personal representative.  The value of the estate accounted for by the personal representative is:

(The total amount of the appraisal value of property in the inventory + gains over the appraisal value on sales + receipts) – (losses from the appraisal value on sales, without reference to encumbrances or other obligations on estate property.)

Section 10800 sets forth the method of calculating the fee for the personal representative based on the value of the estate accounted for:

  • 4% of the first $100,000
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% of the next $9,000,000
  • 0.5% of the next $15,000,000

For any amount over $25,000,000, California Probate Code § 10800(a)(6) allows reasonable compensation as determined by the California Probate Court.

By way of example, if the estate accounted for is valued at $1,600,000, the total statutory compensation fee to the personal representative would be $29,000.

Any agreement between the personal representative and an heir or devisee for higher compensation than that provided is void.  California Probate Code § 10803.

Do Joint Personal Representatives In California Each Get Paid A Full Statutory Fee?

No.  If there are two or more personal representatives, the personal representative’s compensation shall be apportioned among the personal representatives by the court according to the services actually rendered by each personal representative or as agreed to by the personal representatives.  California Probate Code § 10805.

What Are Extraordinary Services of The Personal Representative?

In addition to the compensation provided by Section 10800, the court may allow additional fees compensation for extraordinary services by the personal representative in an amount the court determines is just and reasonable.  California Probate Code § 10801.

Extraordinary services include:

  • Selling real property
  • Continuing Decedent’s business
  • Preparing tax returns or handling tax-related audits or litigation

What Fees Are Paid To the Attorney For The California Personal Representative?

Pursuant to section 10810 of the California Probate Code, the attorney for the personal representative is compensated for ordinary services on the same statutory fee schedule as the personal representative, that is:

  • 4% of the first $100,000
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% of the next $9,000,000
  • 0.5% of the next $15,000,000
  • and reasonable compensation as determined by the California Probate Court for any amount above $25,000,000.

The California Probate court may also allow additional compensation for extraordinary services of the attorney for the personal representative.  Extraordinary services of the attorney for the personal representative may include:

  • Ancillary administration
  • Extraordinary effort to find estate assets
  • Defense of a will contested after its admission to probate
  • Litigation undertaken to benefit the estate


How Much Does Probate In California Cost?

In addition to the fees payable to the personal representative and the attorney for the personal representative in a California probate, the actual costs of filing and administering probate must be taken into account for the total cost of probate.

Costs of a California probate include items like filing fees, copies, publication fees, bonds, death certificates, debts of the decedent, and probate referee fees.

Filing fees for various probate petitions vary in amount depending on the type of petition and in what California county the petition is filed in.  Filing fees range from less than $60 to several hundred dollars.

The notice of the initial probate hearing date and time is required to be published in a local newspaper and generally costs around $200.

If a probate referee is required, the probate referee fees will also be a cost of the estate, and will range from $75 to $10,000, depending on the value of the assets appraised.

The total cost of a California probate depends on the size of the estate, the type of assets, and the complexity of the administration.  Of course, if a will contest or other inheritance litigation is initiated in the estate, the fees and costs will increase exponentially.

Andrew S. Gold, Esq.

Probate & Trust Litigation

Hourly & Contingency Fees Available

(650) 450-9600