California law sets forth in Probate Code Section 10810 the amounts that the Attorney may be paid for a probate proceeding. This “statutory fee” is also payable to the “Executor” or “Personal Representative” appointed by the Court to represent the Estate. The fee is based upon the value of the Estate and is not set off by liabilities, i.e., if a decedent owns a home valued at $1,000,000 that is mortgaged at $900,000, the “value” of the Estate for probate valuation purposes is still the full $1,000,000 value of the home plus all of the decedent's other assets.
The statutory fee is computed as follows:
First $100,000: 4.0% ($4,000) Next $100,000: 3.0% ($3,000) Next $800,000: 2.0% ($16,000) Next $9 Million: 1.0% (up to $90,000) Next $15 Million: 0.5% (up to $75,000) Above $25 Million: Reasonable amount to be determined by the Court
Accordingly, on a $1,000,000 Estate, the Attorney and the Executor would each be entitled to a fee of $23,000. Related costs such as filing fees, court ordered appraisals, various certifications, deed recordings and tax preparation fees are likely to exceed $4,000, resulting in an average $50,000 probate bill for a $1,000,000 Estate.
Some Executors, particularly those who are family members, may waive their right to take a statutory fee and thereby reduce the overall probate bill. However, contrarily, total Attorney's fees and Executor's fees can be higher than the statutory maximum if the Court also orders payment of an “extraordinary fee,” that is, additional fees awarded for work such as completing federal estate tax returns, engaging in estate litigation and for handling very complicated or time-consuming problems of an Estate.