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What Are the Costs of the Probate Process?



The costs of the probate process vary by state or local custom in some jurisdictions. As a result, it is impossible to make a generalized and sweeping prediction of the total amount of probate costs applicable to every situation. That said, some estimate that, on average, minimum probate costs amount to at least $1,500. How can an average person control the costs of probate?

Cost Components

It is very possible to examine and review the typical probate process cost components. It is also possible to estimate a potential percentage for probate costs as a factor of an estate's total dollar value. The typical components loaded into probate process costs are the following:

  • appraisal costs
  • personal representative fees
  • court costs
  • surety bond costs
  • legal fees
  • accounting fees

These components, when added together, amount to a sum of usually at least three to seven percent of the estate's total dollar value (if not more). In some instances, the components' costs are fixed by state law, and it is not possible to reduce them. In other instances, there is a negotiable factor involved, and service fees, in particular, can often be negotiated down. As a result, accounting fees, legal fees, and real estate sales costs may all include a measure of negotiability.

It is important to note that in some jurisdictions like California, attorneys' fees are fixed by state statute, as a percentage of the gross estate value. The applicable state laws in such an instance establish maximum fee amounts. It is still very much possible for a personal representative to negotiate with an attorney to perform probate services for the estate on an hourly basis rather than in accordance with the statutory fee amount.

Disputes

Factors such as will contests, estate disputes, or estate litigation impact the costs of the probate process. Each of these occurrences expends valuable estate assets. It is entirely possible for an estate dispute to significantly (if not completely) erode the estate's assets. Consequently, it is in the estate's, beneficiaries', and personal representative's best interests to communally resolve all disputes efficiently, quickly, and as amicably as possible.