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Myth: Probate will use up all of your loved one’s estate

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the term “probate?”

For many people, probate invokes a very negative response. This is often due to the many myths about probate. One of the most common myths that lead many people to have such negative views is that probate is a long and costly process that will drain their loved one’s estate.

Is this true?

This myth is one of the reasons why so many people believe they should avoid probate at all costs. They worry they will not receive any of their loved one’s treasured assets because by the time probate is complete they will be diminished due to the fees individuals imagine they must pay.

However, this is not necessarily true.

On average, the fees of a formal probate case include:

  • A $435 filing fee. This fee applies each time a petition is filed with the court – for example, it applies in the initial probate filing and if someone contests the will or the appointment of the personal representative;
  • Fees for the personal representative or attorneys, which are set by the California Probate Code. These fees are a regulated percentage of the total value of the estate, though they might increase, for example, if the personal representative must provide services outside of the ordinary process; and
  • Additional fees, such as publishing notices, obtaining death certificates or obtaining copies of important documents, to name a few.

Therefore, probate does not have one uniform cost. It varies depending on each case.

Some factors can make probate cost more – or less

The probate process will be different for every family – and every estate. The cost of probate depends on several factors, including:

  • Your loved one’s financial arrangements in their estate plan;
  • If your loved one had a very large estate;
  • What kind of assets your loved one held; and
  • If you face disputes between family members over the estate.

For example, a large percentage of California estates qualify for an informal probate process with simplified procedures. If the value of your loved one’s estate is $166,250 or less, some of their assets might not even have to go through the court to transfer to beneficiaries.

You and your family should carefully consider your loved one’s estate and circumstances before moving forward, to determine the financial aspects of the probate process.

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