Probate Administration

The probate attorneys at the Law Offices of Douglas P. Barnes have a wealth of experience in probate administration matters, and have handled estates of all sizes, with particular expertise in larger estates involving complex tax issues.  We work closely with the estate fiduciary to marshall and value the assets of the estate, settle claims against the estate, swiftly and efficiently shepherd the estate through the probate process, and transfer title to assets to the heirs and other beneficiaries of the decedent.  We strive to administer every estate with a minimum of expense and delay. 

Many of our probate estates involve significant wealth requiring the filing of a federal estate tax return.  We also have extensive experience in settling federal estate tax audits with the Internal Revenue Service, and we are often engaged to assist other attorneys and accountants in managing the audit process.

Probate Defined

Probate refers to the process where a court oversees the administration of a deceased person’s estate.  The purpose of probate administration is to ensure that any final bills and expenses of the decedent are paid, including any taxes owed, and any claims by creditors settled.  Remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries named in the decedent’s will, or if the decedent died without a will, or "intestate," the decedent’s estate will be distributed to the decedent’s heirs as defined under California’s laws governing intestate succession.

Probate Fees and Costs

Probate fees and costs generally fall into the following three categories:

  • Court costs and fees related to the probate process, including court fees, publication fees, surety bond fees (if required), probate referee fees, certification and recording fees;
  • The personal representative’s fee (the fee paid to the executor or administrator of the estate for his or her services); and
  • The attorney’s fee.

The fee paid to the personal representative and the attorney is set by a statutory California fee schedule and is computed upon the gross value of the estate as follows: 

  • 4% on the first $100,000
  • 3% on the next $100,000
  • 2% on the next $800,000
  • 1% on the next $9,000,000
  • ½% on the next $15,000,000
  • "reasonable" compensation on the excess over $25,000,000

The gross value of the estate is based upon the full value of the assets of the estate, not taking into account any debt, mortgages or other encumbrances on the asset.  For example, a decedent may have a home with a value of $1,000,000 and a mortgage of $950,000.  The fee to probate the home would be based on the full value of $1,000,000, not the $50,000 net value of the property.

It should be noted that the statutory fees mentioned above are the same for all attorneys without regard to the relative experience, skill and qualifications of the attorney.  It does not cost you additional statutory fees to retain a California Certified Specialist in Probate, Estate Planning and Trust Law such as our firm principal, Doug Barnes

For further information regarding the probate process, including a diagram outlining the steps required in the probate process in California, see the website of the Superior Court of the County of Santa Clara

Seek Representation from an Experienced California Probate Lawyer

Serving as the personal representative of a decedent’s estate involves many fiduciary duties and responsibilities.  It is important to seek the guidance and representation of an experienced California probate attorney who specializes in probate administration and estate planning matters. The Law Offices of Douglas P. Barnes offers complimentary initial consultations on probate matters.  Contact us to schedule a consultation.

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