How Attorney Fees in a California Probate Work

After losing a friend or loved one, it may be difficult to think beyond your own grief. But many things remain to be done for that departed person (called a decedent in the Probate Court), including funeral plans, last rights and interment, payment of costs, and a determination as to how that person’s remaining assets (often including a house, commercial property, bank and financial accounts, stocks, bonds, art, vehicles, collectibles, together with all of his or her personal belongings).

All of the assets that were owned by the decedent at the time of death, excepting those either were contributed to a Trust or automatically transferred, are included in the decedent’s estate.

Probate is the court process by which the court appoints a representative for the decedent’s estate to gather or marshal all of the assets to be probated, pay the decedent’s liabilities and taxes, provide an accounting and distribute what remains either according to a Will or the scheme of distribution provided by the Probate Code.

Probate can include challenges to or competing wills, or identification of the decedent’s heirs. 

The Kiken Group can assist you in understanding how Attorneys Fees in a California Probate Work! 

Although a frightening prospect, breaking down fees for Probate in California is less complicated than one would initially think. It can be a daunting process at first when realizing there’s over 21,000 probate codes in the state of California alone. That’s why The Kiken Group is here to help you through this ordeal to make it simple and easy to understand. The allocation of the gross assets of the decedent… The math can be broken down into a simple science and formula making calculations consistent and easy.

The Formula for Ordinary Services

California law provides for a “statutory fee” (also referred to as a “commission”) payable to the Estate representative(s) and to his or her attorney, each of which is determined as a percentage of the gross value of the assets administered in the Estate as given in the following example:

          • 4% on first$ 100,000;
          • 3% on next$ 100,000;
          • 2% on next$ 800,000;
          • 1% on next$ 9,000,000;
          • 0.5% on next$15,000,000;

          • Plus all amounts over $25,000,000 as determined by the court.

For example, if the gross value of the probate estate assets were $1,000,000 the statutory fee and commissions would each be $23,000 [$4,000 + $3,000 + $16,000].

The “statutory” compensation covers ordinary services regarding the routine collection of assets, routine processing of creditor’s claims, distribution of assets to the beneficiaries, and other tasks typically involved in administering the Estate.  Both the Estate Representative and the Representative’s Attorney are entitled to receive the “statutory” compensation.

Please note that the gross assets of the estate identified in the account to the court, not the net estate value, will be used in the percentage of value fee calculation

Extraordinary Fees

The statutory fee or commission does not encompass work involving non-routine matters, such as the sale of assets including real property, income tax matters, gift tax matters, Estate tax matters, or litigation, to name a few. Such matters are referred to as “extraordinary.”

There is no set method of determining the compensation to be paid for extraordinary services rendered in connection with them. Instead, the personal representative and the Estate’s attorney must request that the court approve a reasonable compensation for those services. In that request, the law firm must detail the services rendered and suggest an amount of compensation, usually based upon the firm’s standard hourly rates for its attorneys and paralegals. The court reviews these requests and awards compensation in the amount it believes to be reasonable under the circumstances.

The Estate Representative is also entitled to receive his or her statutory fee, calculated in a similar manner, with any extraordinary fees, again subject to an itemization to be reviewed by the court. To find the Probate Codes in California relevant to your particular case, click here, for all the Probate Codes listed in order.

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