Q. How long does the probate process take?
A. In Southern California, from one to two years. If the probate is contested, it may stretch out for many years.
Q. How expensive is probate?
A. Relatively expensive. For example, a $300,000 estate will generate about $19,000 in attorney, executor/administrator, referee, and appraisal fees and court costs.
Q. How are probate fees determined?
A. Probate fees are set by law and are based on the gross value of the estate.
• 4% of the first $100,000 of the gross value of the probate estate
• 3% of the next $100,000
• 2% of the next $800,000
• 1% of the next $9,000,000
The schedule applies to attorney and executor fees separately. In other words, the cost to the estate will be doubled if the executor takes her fee.
Q. How is probate “gross value” determined?
A. An estate’s gross value is the fair market value on the date of death of all property owned by the decedent without subtracting any liens against the property. For example, the gross value of a $700,000 home with a $600,000 mortgage is $700,000. Statutory fees are calculated on $700,000, not $100,000. It becomes obvious that probate fees can consume a large part of an estate.
Q. Can probate be avoided?
A. Yes, easily.
Q. How can probate be avoided?
A. Two excellent tools are (1) living trusts and (2) contractual beneficiary designations.
Q. Does joint tenancy property avoid probate?
A. Yes, it does.
Q. Who is given notice of probate proceeding?
A. Fifteen days before the hearing, the probate petition must be serviced on known heirs, devisees, nonpetitioning executors, alternative executors, and, if a charitable gift, on Attorney General. Notice to creditors must be published in a newspaper of general circulation (Govt C §6000) in city where decedent had property or resided at death. During administration, notices must be given to the taxing authorities and to Medi-Cal.