How much does it cost for Probate?

Probate Expenses

Proper estate planning can help save time, save money, and protect the privacy of an estate.  Probate expenses can have a wide variance depending on where you live and how much you have in assets.  Some states, like California, have specific fee schedules based on the assets you own upon your death.  Other states, have subjective fees where the probate statutes simply state that the fees must be reasonable.

These fees for Probate also are based only on assets and ignore any debts, which this means if you own a $500,000 home, and owe $450,000, the probate fees are based only on the $500,000 value of the home, ignoring the mortgage.  One thing to keep in mind while reading this is that a properly executed trust can avoid Probate entirely, negating these fees.

California

California Probate Code Section 10800 and 10810 provide that the attorney and the executor of an estate may each charge the following:

The first $100,000:  4% each [for a total of 8%]

The next $100,000:  3% each [for a total of 6%]

The next $800,000:  2% each [for a total of 4%]

The next $9,000,000:  1% each [for a total of 2%]

The next $15,000,000:  1/2% each [for a total of 1%]

Missouri

The Missouri State Bar offers a PDF about Probate that is very informative.  Please keep in mind that this document only applies to Missouri.  Within this published PDF document, it states:

Missouri statutes provide for a minimum fee schedule for each. Compensation in excess of this scheduled fee may be paid upon an order of the court or upon consent of all distributees. The minimum scheduled fees are based upon a percentage of the amount of money and personal property administered in the estate. This percent- age is based upon a graduated scale as follows: 5 percent of the first $5,000; 4 percent of the next $20,000; 3 percent of the next $75,000; 2.75 percent of the next $300,000; 2.5 percent of the next $600,000; and 2 percent of everything more than $1 million. For example, an estate in which $110,000 is administered would generate a personal representative or minimum attorney fee of $3,575 each (6.5 percent of estate for both fees).

As with California, these percentage fees are for each, so you would double the fees listed (10% for the first $5,000; 8% for the next $20,000, etc.).

Wyoming

Wyoming Probate Code 2-7-803 provides the following:

(a)If the court determines that by reason of unusual circumstances the fee computed hereafter is not equitable after considering the time and effort reasonably expended and the responsibility with which the personal representative was charged, the court may allow such additional fee as the court determines proper. The court shall allow the personal representative fees for ordinary services rendered to the estate unless the personal representative files a written waiver as to a part or all thereof. The fees shall be computed on the basis of the amount of the decedent’s probate estate accounted for as follows:

(i)For the first one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) of the basis, ten percent (10%);

(ii)For all sums over one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) but not exceeding five
thousand dollars ($5,000.00) of the basis, five percent (5%);

(iii)For all sums over five thousand dollars ($5,000.00) but not exceeding twenty
thousand dollars ($20,000.00) of the basis, three percent (3%);

(iv)For all sums over twenty thousand dollars ($20,000.00) of the basis, two percent
(2%).

(b)In addition, further fees as are just and reasonable may be allowed by the court to the personal representative for extraordinary expenses or services actually incurred or rendered by the personal representative and necessary to the proper administration and distribution of the estate. Extraordinary services shall include but not be limited to services rendered by the personal representative relative to any tax matters and services rendered by the personal representative in connection with any litigation to which the decedent or the estate is a party.

Colorado

As noted above, not all states have set fee structures.  As an example, the Colorado State Bar offers this link about Probate.  Please keep in mind that this website only applies to Colorado.  Within this published website it states:

An attorney’s expertise is usually necessary in identifying what type of probate is necessary, and the scope of the attorney’s involvement will depend on the complexity of the estate. Even the most well-planned estates and well-written wills have costs associated with administration, including court fees, attorney fees, and the payment of the decedent’s final expenses and legitimate debts. Most attorneys charge an hourly fee, and the rate depends on several factors, such as the attorney’s expertise and experience, the novelty and difficulty of the case, the results obtained, and costs involved.

Most people do not understand the time and labor it takes to go through probate.  There is a good article on avvo.com that states the average probate fees in Colorado are between 3% and 4%.  This can be far cheaper than some states, like California, however it is still fees that can easily be avoided with a properly established estate plan.

Small Estate Affidavit

Some states offer a small estate affidavit or an informal probate procedure.  For example, in Colorado if your estate is a small estate that does not own any real estate, you can simply use the JD-999 (Word Document) or the JD-999 (PDF) form to collect assets.   The criteria adjusts based on inflation every year and started at a $60,000 estate.  You can get the updated amount here.

Conclusion

Proper estate planning can save time, money, and provide additional privacy.  For more information on Estate Planning, please see this prior blog.