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CostHelper > Personal Finance  > Taxes & Financial Planning > Probate

Probate Cost

How Much Does Probate Cost?

 average costMedium: Estimated at 2-7% of the Estate 
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After a person dies, probate is a legal process of paperwork and court appearances used to officially distribute the estate based on the deceased's will (or based on state law if there is no will). Estates smaller than an amount set by each state ($50,000 in Wisconsin; $100,000 in Arizona) do not have to go through probate; neither does property distributed through methods other than a will, such as joint tenancy ownership or a living trust.

Typical costs:

  • Probate involves a number of potential costs -- appraisal fees, executor's fees, court filing fees, surety bond fees, legal fees and accountancy fees. These expenses are paid out of the estate, then the remainder of the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries. Depending on the complexity of the circumstances, total probate costs are estimated to run 2-7 percent of the value of the estate, or $2,000-$7,000 for an estate (house, cars, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, etc.) worth $100,000.
  • Probate laws vary considerably by state, so costs vary also. A Utah attorney estimates that the average cost of probating an uncontested will there is $2,000-$3,000. An attorney in the state of Washington pegs it at $2,500-$5,000. California law sets maximum amounts that can be paid to the executor and attorney in a standard probate process; for a $100,000 estate it's $4,000 each or $8,000 total; for a $500,000 estate it's $13,000 each or $26,000 total.
  • The executor (sometimes called a personal representative) is the person named (usually in the will) to administer the estate. The executor is legally entitled to be paid for his or her services, but if this person is a family member and/or the sole beneficiary of the estate, he or she can choose to not charge any fees, which cuts the cost of probate.
  • If the will is contested (someone files a legal claim saying the will's invalid and the estate should be distributed differently than as specified in the will), probate costs can skyrocket.
Related articles: Estate Planning, Will, Trust, Financial Planner, Tax Returns

What should be included:
  • Generally the steps in probate include; proving in court that a will is valid (usually a routine step); identifying and inventorying the property of the deceased; having the property appraised; paying debts and taxes; and distributing the remaining property as the will stipulates, or following state law if there's no will. In some cases probate can be completed in 30 days, but most often the process takes 4 months to a year or more, particularly if the will is contested. The probate process varies by state; provides links to estate and probate laws by state.
Additional costs:
  • Attorneys working on an hourly basis charge for any time spent answering your questions on the phone or by e-mail, as well as case-related expenses such as interviews, research or photocopies. Charges are usually done in quarters or tenths of an hour; a six-minute phone conversation may be billed as 15 minutes.
Shopping for probate:
  • Although you can choose to hire the attorney who drafted the will to handle the probate process, it's not required. Ask about the attorney's experience and specific training in estate planning and probate law. At the first meeting, be prepared to provide as much information as possible. offers a questionnaire[1] to complete before meeting with a probate lawyer.
  • Referrals to lawyers are available through the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel[2] and the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys[3] .
  • Your attorney should provide you with a written fee agreement. Be sure you understand what is covered, and any other fees and expenses you might have to pay.
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What People Are Paying - Recent Comments
Probate in Bishopville SC
Amount: $6.00 total
Posted by: shantiloo in Bishopville, SC.Posted: November 7th, 2013 02:11PM
Law Firm: Saverance Law FirmAmount Per Hour: 150.00
IT took 20 months to settle the estate and over a year to pay for the funeral cost. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. Saverance handled the case like he had been paid off to throw me under the bus so to speak. Or like he was in a daze or something. Anyone looking for a probate lawyer and not from Bishopville, make sure you get a lawyer from another town (columbia sc.
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Probate - family settlement agreement
Amount: $4,000.00 total
Posted by: a user in RUSSELLVILLE, AR.Posted: October 12th, 2013 05:10PM
Law Firm: MOBLEY LAW FIRMAmount Per Hour: $200$4,
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