There are certain types of fees and expenses that can be expected when your spouse dies, the extent of which depends on where you live, the size of your spouse’s estate and what, if any, estate planning was done. Generally, court fees, appraisal fees, executor fees and attorney fees can be expected. Some of these fees are established or limited by the laws of the state where you live. The cost of probate is also a factor. This expense is commonly between 5% and 10% of the gross estate.
Filing petitions and other legal documents in court require filing fees that generally range from $250 to $350. This includes the cost of filing a will with the Probate Court, and publishing the Notice of Death in the local newspaper. If the estate includes is real estate that does not pass automatically to the surviving spouse, an appraisal will need to be conducted by a certified appraiser. Those fees normally run approximately $400.
Fees paid to Personal Representatives and Attorneys
The Personal Representative is the person named in your spouse’s will as the one to oversee the probate process. If your spouse did not have a will, the judge will appoint an administrator to perform those duties. The Personal Representative is entitled to be paid for their service. Most often, when that person is a family member or close friend, they tend not to charge any fees.
Attorneys and Personal Representatives are governed by the same percentage-based fee schedule, established by California statute. The fee schedule for “ordinary” services is as follows:
- 4% of the first 100,000 of the gross value of the probate estate
- 3% of the next $100,000
- 2% of the next $800,000
- 1% of the next $9 million
- 0.5% of the next 15 million
For any estate over $25 million, the fee is “a reasonable amount.”
In California, there are a few other limitations on fees. Agreements regarding compensation for personal representatives in excess of the above amounts are considered void under the California Probate Code. The Same is true for agreements with attorneys. When two or more individuals act as co-Personal Representatives, or if more than one attorney works on the estate, they are required to share the fees. If an attorney also serves as Personal Representative, then the attorney is only entitled to receive the fee of a Personal Representative, but not an additional fee as attorney.
Estate or Inheritance Taxes
Everyone’s estate is subject to federal estate tax. However, the current federal estate tax exemption is $5.34 million, which means only the amount of an estate that exceeds that amount will be subject to estate or inheritance tax. According to U.S. Census figures, the median annual income for California residents is $ 61,400. The likelihood that many California citizens will be required to pay estate taxes is probably small. There are eight states that impose their own inheritance state. California is not one of them.