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Cost of Probate in California

Curious about the cost of probate in California? Read our guide that covers everything about California probate fees.

Byron Ricardo Batres

Byron Ricardo Batres, @ByronBatres

General Manager, Probate, Trust & Will

Probate is the legal process that begins the administration of an estate after the owner's passing. For the probate process to happen, someone needs to be appointed to oversee the deceased person's estate distribution. This person will either be named by the Will (if there is one) or a court will appoint him or her. Often, it’s a spouse, adult child, another family member or a close friend.

Dealing with probate can be stressful and time-consuming for people who do not understand the ins and outs of the process. Learn everything you need to know, including the costs associated with probate in California, here.

The cost of probate in California can vary and will generally depend on multiple factors. These can include:

  • Location (counties can have varying fees)

  • Estate size 

  • Estate complexity

  • The type of Estate Plan or lack thereof (is there a Will or Trust in place?)

  • Other factors

[Need help with probate? We offer helpful probate services and will work with you to find the plan that meets your needs. Learn more.]

The average cost of probate in California really can’t be determined inclusively unless you know several things, which is one reason why it can be so helpful to understand the probate process in its entirety.  

Common Probate Fees in California

Despite there being some variances with probate costs across the state, there are some fairly common fees you should expect to pay as you navigate the probate process. 

  • Court and filing fees

  • Attorney and Executor fees (note, Executors can waive their right to compensation; California sets Executor fees by statute)

  • Additional professional fees: Accountants; Appraisers; Land Surveyors

  • Probate Bond - required in California for all Personal Representatives, unless waived by the Will or all beneficiaries waive in writing

  • Etc.

Common Questions About Probate in California

How Long Does Probate Take in California?

In California, probate can range anywhere from nine months to several years. On average, most probates can be settled in about a year and a half, but again, a lot of factors come into play.  

How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost in California?

California is one of a handful of states that allows attorneys to bill according to a percentage of the total value of the estate.

  • 4% of the first $100,000  

  • 3% of the next $100,000 

  • 2% of the next $800,000

  • 1% of the next $9M

  • ½% of the next $15M

***Estates larger than $25M: a court can determine the fee 

How Can You Avoid Probate in California?

In California, an estate may be able to avoid going through the probate process if:

  • The estate value doesn’t exceed the small estate threshold 

  • There is a Living Trust, and any assets outside it are valued at less than the small estate threshold

  • Assets are set up to pass directly to beneficiaries

What is Considered a Small Estate in California?

California allows for a simplified probate in cases where an estate has probate assets valued less than $166,250. 

Who Pays Probate Fees in California?

Most of the costs associated with probate, including probate attorney fees in California, are paid for out of the estate before any distributions are made to heirs.