The High Cost of Death Probate

According to a recent national survey, the average cost of Death Probate is typically between five and ten percent of an estate’s gross value. Of that amount, around 60% goes to pay attorneys’ legal fees, while the rest goes to pay personal representatives, and other costs.

Every state has a different method for calculating probate court fees, including the fees that attorneys and personal representatives demand. In some states, there are no limits to what a probate attorney can charge a client. In others, fees are limited to a maximum percentage of the estate’s worth. In any case, the fees can be a tremendous burden on your family. For example, a married couple could potentially pay probate fees upon the death of each spouse, each time chipping away even further at their intended heirs’ inheritances.

Not only are these fees extremely high, but in states where the fee calculation is percentage-based, they are especially unfair because fees are calculated based on your estate’s gross—not net—value. For example, if you own a property that’s worth $1,000,000 on the market, but you owe $600,000 on it, your probate fees will be calculated using a percentage of the $1,000,000 figure, not the $400,000 in equity owned by the estate after debts, liens, or other expenses are paid. Because of this lopsided calculation, your estate will be forced to pay higher fees.