Saturday, July 21 , 2018, 7:17 pm | A Few Clouds 70º

 
 
 
Your Health
A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Christopher Jones: The Rising Costs of Probate

Initial expenses start at about $1,000 and can quickly increase from there

The Legislature is fond of telling us that it hasn’t “raised taxes” for several years. What has happened, however, is that the state of California charges more for state services than it used to. That trend has been especially true for the probate court system.

Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones

In general, state law requires that all decedents’ estates with a gross value (no deductions for debt) of more than $100,000 be administered through supervised court proceedings known as probate. Estates include all assets owned directly by the decedent at the time of death. This includes not only real property in California, but also all of the decedent’s personal property, wherever located.

Both the executor’s and attorney’s fees are determined by the gross fair market value of the estate as of the date of death. With a gross value of $100,000, your estate will pay the executor and attorney a total of $8,000 ($4,000 each). For a $250,000 estate, the total probate fees are $16,000 ($8,000 each). If the estate is appraised at $1 million, the fees total $46,000 ($23,000 each).

In addition, the estate pays other costs, such as filing and appraisal fees, publication of notice costs and bond premiums. In recent years, the filing fees have increased dramatically. Filing fees now approach $400 each. In the past, this fee was paid only once. Now the rules require that the fees be paid each time a petition is filed with the court. Since most probate proceedings require several petitions, the costs of probate have become more expensive than ever.

At a minimum, a probate requires a “Petition for Probate” and an “Account and Petition” to conclude it, thus costing about $800 in filing fees. Taken together with $200 in newspaper notice publication, initial costs start at $1,000 and move upward from there. Should a real property sale be required, at least one other petition to the court is also involved.

Participation in court proceedings is never a happy occasion. With probate, this is especially true. It is time-consuming compared with trust administration, and each step of the way is subject to court scrutiny. Constant court appearances are required every six to eight weeks. Because probate is required in all California estates of a value above $100,000, unless the assets already belong to a trust, have a trust prepared. Even the smallest probate administration will cost a minimum of $9,000 (unless the executor/administrator waives his or her fee, and that still leaves $5,000 in fees and costs to be paid), far more than the cost of having a trust prepared.

Lastly, probate costs the surviving heirs time. Santa Barbara County’s court system works remarkably well, given the constraints of severe budget cuts that have occurred in recent times. Other locales have not fared nearly as well, and our experience has been that probate processing time has lengthened dramatically in some venues.

Despite our good fortune in our community, a probate matter must nevertheless follow statutory requirements, and even when careful attention is paid to deadlines and procedure, there is no way to avoid waiting out the required time periods for giving notice to creditors and publishing notice. When hearings before a judge are needed as probate frequently requires, there are notice requirements to be met as well, which cause long stretches of time between when we want things to be done and when they may actually be permitted to occur by the court.

As a result, transferring title to assets through probate takes considerably longer than doing so through the vehicle of a trust.

— Christopher Jones is a Santa Barbara-based estate plan and trust administration lawyer. He can be reached at 805.963.2014. Click here for more information.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

 

Special Reports

Heroin Rising
<p>Lizette Correa shares a moment with her 9-month-old daughter, Layla, outside their Goleta home. Correa is about to graduate from Project Recovery, a program of the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse, and is determined to overcome her heroin addiction — for herself and for her daughter. “I look at her and I think ‘I need to be here for her and I need to show her an example, I don’t want her to see me and learn about drugs’,” she says.</p>

In Struggle to Get Clean, and Stay That Way, Young Mother Battles Heroin Addiction

Santa Barbara County sounds alarm as opiate drug use escalates, spreads into mainstream population
Safety Net Series
<p>Charles Condelos, a retired banker, regularly goes to the Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics for his primary care and to renew his prescription for back pain medication. He says Dr. Charles Fenzi, who was treating him that day at the Westside Clinic, and Dr. Susan Lawton are some of the best people he’s ever met.</p>

Safety Net: Patchwork of Clinics Struggles to Keep Santa Barbara County Healthy

Clinics that take all comers a lifeline for low-income patients, with new health-care law about to feed even more into overburdened system. First in a series
Prescription for Abuse
<p>American Medical Response emergency medical technicians arrive at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital with little time to spare for victims of prescription drug overdoses.</p>

Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

Evidence of addiction shows an alarming escalation, Noozhawk finds in Prescription for Abuse special report
Mental Health
<p>Rich Detty and his late wife knew something was wrong with their son, Cliff, but were repeatedly stymied in their attempts to get him help from the mental health system. Cliff Detty, 46, died in April while in restraints at Santa Barbara County’s Psychiatric Health Facility.</p>

While Son Struggled with Mental Illness, Father Fought His Own Battle

Cliff Detty's death reveals scope, limitations of seemingly impenetrable mental health system. First in a series