Skip Navigation

Your Life

Probate and Trust Administration

Probate is a legal process required to wind up a person's affairs after death. In California, the Superior Court in the county in which the decedent lived maintains jurisdiction over the decedent’s probate estate. The probate process can take as little as six months, but usually takes in excess of nine months to complete. Where the estate is involved in litigation, it can take several years to complete the probate.

Probate is both time consuming and expensive. Probate matters typically require three types of fees, all based on the value of the probate estate: (1) court filing fees, (2) statutory executor fees, and (3) statutory attorney fees. Court fling fees range from $320 to $3,635. The standard fee schedule for both executors and attorneys is as follows:

Estate Value Statutory Fee
$100,000 $4,000
$200,000 $7,000
$300,000 $9,000
$400,000 $11,000
$500,000 $13,000
$600,000 $15,000
$700,000 $17,000
$800,000 $19,000
$900,000 $21,000
$1,000,000 $23,000
$2,000,000 $33,000

In certain circumstances, the executor and/or attorney can request additional fees called “extraordinary fees”, where the probate requires the executor and/or attorney to perform services above and beyond that which is typically required in a probate proceeding for an estate of the size being probated.

In probate matters, the value of the estate for purposes of determining the appropriate fee is the fair market value of the assets without any offset for liabilities secured by the assets. For instance, if the estate consists of a home valued at $1 million and the home has a $900,000 mortgage, the executor will receive $23,000, the attorney will receive $23,000, and the court filing fee will be $1,135. After expenses, the heirs will be left with $2,865.

Given the high cost and amount of time involved in any probate matter, you should plan ahead to avoid probate for the sake of your heirs using one of the many General Estate Planning or Advanced Estate Planning techniques available. If you have taken this step, then your estate will be more easily transferred using the Trust Administration process. This is a much more simplified and informal process than probate. Trust administration involves carrying out the provisions in the trust, including dividing and disposing of assets, establishing trusts for beneficiaries, terminating the trust where appropriate or necessary. Generally, the cost and amount of time involved in trust administration is far less than what would be involved in a similar probate estate.