The following are some frequently asked questions we receive at Fullerton, Lemann, Schaefer & Dominick, LLP regarding probate administration. If you have a specific question or would like further information regarding the probate process, please see our probate page, or contact Fullerton, Lemann, Schaefer & Dominick, LLP. We serve clients in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties and throughout the Inland Empire Region of Southern California.
Q: What is “probate”?
A: Probate refers to the process where the court oversees the administration of a deceased person’s estate. The purpose of probate administration is to ensure that any final bills and expenses of the decedent are paid, including any taxes owed, and any claims by creditors settled.
Q: What happens if I die without a will or trust?
A: If a person dies without a will or trust, they are said to have died “intestate”, and their estate will be distributed to their heirs as defined under California’s laws governing intestate succession. Unfortunately, California’s laws regarding intestate succession are based on a determination of who is the deceased person’s next of kin, without regard to the intentions of the deceased as to who they would have named as beneficiaries. If a person dies with assets titled in their name, subject to some exceptions for a very small estate, probate administration will be required. The best way to ensure that your estate will pass to your intended beneficiaries is to create a will and/or trust.
Q. How much does it cost to probate an estate?
A. Probate is a costly, time consuming process. Probate fees in California are high, and generally fall into three categories:
- Court Costs, including court fees, publication fees, surety bond fees, probate referee fees, certification and recording fees;
- Personal Representative’s fee (the fee paid to the administrator of the estate for his or her services); and the
- Attorney’s fee.
The fees paid to the personal representative and the attorney are set by law and computed upon the gross value of the estate as follows:
- 4% on the first $100,000
- 3% on the next $100,000
- 2% on the next $800,000
- 1% on the next $9,000,000
- ½% on the next $15,000,000
- “reasonable” compensation on the excess over $25,000,000
It is important to note that the gross value of the estate is based upon the full value of the assets of the estate, not taking into account any mortgages, debt or other encumbrances on the asset. For example, the deceased may have a home with a value of $500,000 and a mortgage of $475,000. The fee to probate the home would be based on the full value of $500,000, not the $25,000 net value of the property ($500,000-$475,000).