How much does probate cost?
The cost of probate can vary depending upon the complexity of the deceased’s debts and assets. As the particular situation will vary for each case, let's examine the common probate costs every estate will face.
Every probate court charges a set of fees for probate proceedings. The most common fees are:
- Filing fee
- Fee for issuing certificates (letters of testamentary or administration)
- Surety bond (if necessary)
Unfortunately, probate courts across the country don’t have uniform fees for probate proceedings. Each court can charge something different.
Filing fee ($50-$1,200):
The filing fee is typically the initial fee that needs to be paid when you begin the probate process (petition the court). The filing fee is usually based on the size of the estimated estate. You don’t need to know the exact value of the estate when you file. In fact, you probably won’t know the estate’s true value until you are officially the court representative (executor or administrator).
Certificates ($5-$20 per certificate):
Certificates are the official (including the court’s seal) letters of appointment from the court authorizing the executor or administrator to act on the court’s or the deceased’s behalf.
Many institutions you’ll need to interact with, such as banks or the DMV, will accept a copy of the official certificate, but you will likely need a separate certificate for each asset owned by the deceased. You may ask the court for more certificates if you’ve used all the ones they provided.
Surety bond ($0-$1,000):
A surety bond provides the estate insurance to protect against any misdealings of the representative. Most wills specifically state that a bond is not required, and court’s abide by this provision. If a bond is required, the size of the bond depends on the estimated value of the estate.
You will need to notify heirs and the court throughout the process. We recommend that you use certified mail.
Often you will also need to announce the estate in via a public notice in the local paper.
Administration are the costs that you spend to administer the estate. They can range from $100 to $10,000. These You might need to travel, purchase supplies, or pay for tax preparation. The incidental costs (actual out of pocket expenditures) are reimbursable by the estate or can be paid by the estate in advance.
The executor or administrator is entitled to charge a fee for their representation of the estate. State law governs the maximum percentage (typically 3-5%) of the value of the estate an executor can charge.
Note: charging an executor or administrator fee is not mandatory.
Legal (attorney) expenses can range from $2,000 to $20,000. The expenses will vary depending on how much you rely on an attorney. Many attorneys charge a flat fee ($2,000-$5,000) for typical estates.
See: Can I probate a will without an attorney? (Spoiler: Yes, and it will save you thousands.)