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Probate Court Costs

Probate has a bad rap due to the huge costs involved. Of course many of the costs are related to paying the attorney and the personal representative.  Those are based on the sliding percentage scale for “ordinary fees” and by judicial determination for “extraordinary fees.”  Today’s post, however, is about the actual out of pocket costs that are the same no matter who the attorney is or even if you tried to do the probate without an attorney.  I call them “court costs” but some of the costs are not paid to the court itself. Here is a list of costs you may encounter in your probate.

I should say first that costs are always changing as filing fees and other court costs keep rising with the California budget problems.  Additionally some of these costs are estimates and change from county to county within California.  With that caveat here are the costs….

Initial Court Filing Fee:  Currently it is $395 in all counties in California to file the initial probate petition as well as several other petitions that are sometimes filed.

Publication: Newspapers throughout the state charge varying prices ranging from $150 – $500 but I would say $200 is the median price charged by reputable newspapers in California for this service which is a required part of the California probate process.

Certified Copies: Currently most every county in California charges $25 to certify a Court document, such as Letters and a Court order.  Some also charge a 50 cents per page copy fee and others don’t.  A typical probate probably involves 2-5 certified copies so let’s estimate this at $50on average.

Probate Referee: A California probate referee will be appointed to appraise many assets in your probate case.  The fee for this is .01% or 1/10th of one percent plus some specific costs they can charge such as travel and mapping.  There is a $75 minimum in many instances.  Each case is different so it’s impossible to say how much the probate referee will be in your case.  However, a $300,000 appraisal would cost about $300 so let’s go with that as an estimate for this blog post today.  By the way, it doesn’t matter if your brother in law is an appraiser and will do it for free. The probate referee is required to be used!

Death Certificates:  In most cases we need to obtain the decedent’s death certificate as well as any predeceased spouse.  These costs vary from state to state but in California $18 is a typical charge these days.  If we assume two death certificates will be needed this cost will thus be $36.

Final Filing Fee: Most, if not all, counties in California now charge $395 to file the final petition in a probate case.  Thus $395 to open and $395 to close!

Final Order: In a case where this is real property that will be transferred from the probate estate due to the heirs or beneficiaries there are two additional costs.  First, we need to get a certified copy of the final order which will be another $25.  Second, we will need to record that order.  Each county is different and it also depends on how many pages are being recorded but $20 is a good estimate.

Other Costs: Other costs that we typically encounter include FedEx charges if any overnight mail service is required, courier fees to the Court, deed research costs if any old deeds are needed, and other similar miscellaneous costs.  It would be fair to estimate these at $50 for the average case.

As you can see even a small probate can quickly create costs of towards $1,500!  In some cases my law firm will front these costs for you and in others we can not.  Talk to me about your case to see what the options are for getting these costs paid and getting your probate started!

I look forward to talking to you.  -John

P.S. By the way I didn’t even mention the surety bond.   In cases where we can’t waive the requirement of a bond a surety bond will have to be posted. The cost is approximately .05% or 1/2 of 1% for a standard probate.  Thus a $300,000 bond would cost about $1,500. There are some ways around this so talk to me about your case and I can explain some options.

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