During the probate process, a probate court determines the validity of the decedent’s "last will and testament." Alternatively, if there is no will, the probate court oversees asset distribution to the named beneficiaries or rightful heirs according to state’s intestate succession statutes. The probate court also oversees the payment of estate taxes and debts, and resolves conflicts between heirs.

What Are Some Basic Probate Related Fees?

Standard probate costs include:
  • Court fees
  • Attorney fees
  • Accounting and appraisal fees
  • Fees paid to estate’s executor
In many states, the expense of probate depends on the organization of the estate. If accountants and attorneys pile up the hours searching for and qualifying assets, the probate will be correspondingly more expensive. Battles amongst heirs for assets will also increase the costs.

Are There Limitations to Executor’s and Probate Attorneys’ Fees?

The executor’s fees and the attorneys’ fees can be limited by state law. Often, these fees are limited to 2 to 4 percent of the estate value, depending on the amount of work put into probate. In California, for instance, executor and attorneys’ fees start at 4% of a $100,000 estate, and go down in percentage as the estate value increases. Executor fees are deductible from federal estate taxes.

Additional Probate Costs: What Other Fees May be Expected?

Additional fees include probate court’s fees, which is $320 in California, plus surcharges. California has lower court costs than other states, which can charge from $1,000 to $3,000, due to a law limiting cost hikes. Other fees go to the appraisal of the estate by referees, who receive 0.1% of the assets in California.

How Do Probate Costs Vary Between States?

The costs of probate vary from state to state. Such costs depend on estate’s size, disputes among inheritors, existence of valid will or trust, as well as complexity of the probated estate. New York’s probate cost can range anywhere from 2% to 7% of estate’s value, but could be more under certain circumstances. Depending on the estate’s value, executor’s as well as attorneys’ fees in NY vary between 2.5% to 5% while court costs may range from $215 to $1,250. Florida sets out a reasonable attorney fees schedule: depending on estate’s value, just the attorney’s fees associated with probate may be as low as $1,500 or as high as $165,000 with additional percentage taken off. In Connecticut, the probate court applies a schedule for determination of court fees: first $10,000 of estate is assessed $150, then 0.35% is applied to $10,000 - $500,000 range, and 0.25% to the estate’s value cutting $500,000 threshold.

Why Seek an Attorney’s Help?

A qualified probate lawyer can help you represent your interests as well as understand your rights. A probate lawyer may also address various disagreements among beneficiaries regarding estate distribution.