Do probate costs go down if I have a will? I have a small, tight family and don’t expect there to be any contests over assets. So I was thinking about

forgoing the cost of a will, unless it helps to speed up and bring down the cost of probate.

Asked on June 29, 2009 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The following table sets forth the California statutory fee schedule for the executor of the estate and the attorney for the estate.

Probate Fees (for Administrator and Attorney, each)Size of Estate (Gross Value)
4 % of first$100,000
3 % of next$100000
2 % of next$800,000
1 % of next$15 million

Some of the effective ways of planning to avoid probate of an estate are discussed below.  If your property fits in any of the following categories, you may be able to avoid probate in these specific situations under California law:

Living Trust

Joint Accounts/ Payable-On-Death (POD) Accounts/Transfer-On-Death (TOD) Accounts

Joint Tenancy (real estate)

If the gross value of all real property in California is worth less than $20,000, it may avoid probate and can be transferred by a "Affidavit Re Real Property of Small Value"  

If your estate is below $100,000 and there is no real estate, there is a simplified procedure for handling the estate after death.  Automobiles do not count in the $100,000 limit and there are several other exclusions that make this a useful approach for many people.  There is an affidavit  to complete and much of your property can be transferred in this way.

Additionally, there is a simple, non-probate procedure is available to transfer title to automobiles, registered boats, and mobile homes in California.

Some of the above measures, however, are going to be affected by your spouse's community property rights if you are married. 

It might well be worth your time to consult with an estate planning attorney regarding all of this; even if it is just for an initial appointment to get you going in the right direction.  It will take an hour or so of your time and be of nominal cost. 


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