Although there are no minimum fees for probate in California, probate fee maximums are set by statute, California Probate Code Sections 10810-10814. Nearly every attorney, unless special circumstances exist, charges the maximum allow fee. This is also the same fee schedule that an executor may charge, although many executors, whom are also beneficiaries, choose not to take fees, because accepting the money as inheritance often has fewer tax consequences.
The fees set by statute are based on the gross value of the estate. This means that a million dollar home with a $900,000 mortgage, is a million dollar estate in the eyes of the court. The fees are set as follows:
1. Four percent of the first $100,000;
2. Three percent of the next $100,000;
3. Two percent on the next $800,000;
4. One percent on the next $9 million; and
5. One-half of one percent on the next $15 million.
This does not include any extraordinary fees that may be charged.
In Alameda County, the median home price in 2013 was $510,000. If only the home, and no other assets were subject to probate, the estate would be exposed to the following fees:
4% of the first $100,000 = $4,000
3% of the next $100,000 = $3,000
2% of the next $310,000 = $6,200
Attorney fees: $13,200
Executor fees: $13,200
Total possible fees prior to estate distribution: $26,400.
This is why many people with homes in California choose to place the home in a revocable trust, thereby saving their heirs and beneficiaries hefty probate fees.