Depending on the type of estate planning a person did prior to death, the estate might have to go through probate. Probate refers to the court supervised process of wrapping up the affairs of the decedent. The person in charge of this process is the personal representative (or executor or administrator). This person is tasked with gathering the assets, having them appraised, and distributing them to the right heirs or beneficiaries (and many other items along the way).
Because the probate process can be tedious and complicated, the personal representative will often hire an attorney to help. In California, the law provides a set fee the attorney can charge, according to the following formula:
- Four percent (4%) of the first $100,000;
- Three percent (3%) of the next $100,000;
- Two percent (2%) of the next $800,000;
- One percent (1%) of the next $9,000,000;
- One half of one percent (0.5%) of the next $15,000,000;
- For estate over $25,000,000, the court will determine a reasonable fee.
The above scale is for ordinary services. For extraordinary services, the attorney can petition the court for additional fees. If the court allows this, it will determine a fee that is “just and reasonable.” (The scale described above applies only to the attorney for the personal representative. If you decide to hire your own attorney as a beneficiary, you will most likely pay hourly.)
Here are a few other things to know about probate fees in California:
- Legal fees for the personal representative's attorney generally are paid out of the estate.
- The attorney is usually paid at the end of the process.
- If compensation for the attorney is provided for in the will itself, then that compensation is the “full and only compensation” available. (The court may grant relief from this upon petition by the attorney or the personal representative. Notice of the hearing on the petition must be sent to all interested parties.)
- If more than one attorney works on the case, the statutory fees are split between them, according to the amount of work done by each (or as they agree).
- The personal representative is entitled to the same fees, and they are not affected by hiring an attorney.
- Both the personal representative and his or her attorney can accept fees lower than those described above.
If you've been named the personal representative for an estate in probate, you may be thinking of hiring an attorney to help you with the process. The good thing about the attorneys' fees is that they are laid out in the probate code. This makes your decision making much easier and allows you to focus on finding an attorney who will help make sure it gets done right.
Helix Law Firm can guide you through the probate process
Whether you've been appointed as personal representative and need help probating the estate, or you're a beneficiary and want someone to look out for your interest, we can help relieve you of the burden of probate.
If you're interested in learning more about how Helix can help, please call us at (619) 567-4447 to schedule a free consultation.