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A quality estate plan involves careful consideration of personal wishes as well as detailed compliance with the law. There are several documents which are included in a complete estate plan however, the Living Trust is the most important.

Most People Complete Estate Plans With Living Trusts For Three (3) Reasons:

  1. Reducing costs after death (including avoiding probate fees and minimizing taxes);
  2. Avoiding probate of the estate (which lasts anywhere from six (6) months to several years); and
  3. Guiding distribution of the estate in a clear, responsible way.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of transferring title for your assets to your heirs, and for proving that wills are valid under state law. Probate involves publishing notices to creditors, obtaining formal appraisals on all assets, multiple court hearings, filing numerous forms and other paperwork, and petition the court for approval of final distribution.  When the final distribution Order is obtained, then the estate can be distributed.  Probate in most California counties for an ordinary estate takes at least eight (8) months and can last for years if any complications or disputes arise.

How Much Are Probate Fees and Costs?

California probate fees are statutory maximums and start at 4% of the value of the estate, gradually decreasing to ½ of 1% for very large estates. Probate fees cover the range of legal services required to close out a person’s estate when they die without a Living Trust.

Initial and final court costs include filing fees, certification costs for court orders, probate referee/appraisal fees, recording fees, and other costs ranging on average from $2,000 – $4,000.

Examples Of Statutory Fees in Probate

Present Value Of Estate

$100,000
$300,000
$600,000
$1,000,000

Estimated Probate Costs

$4,000—8,000
$9,000—18,000
$15,000—30,000
$23,000—46,000

Benefits To Creating An Estate Plan Now

The benefits to creating an estate plan now are many.  At minimum, you will be at peace knowing you took care of your affairs and your family exactly the way you wanted.  You may also be able to save your family thousands of dollars in probate fees and costs after your death, and your family could be spared additional stress of having to go through probate when they are grieving.  Estate planning is a true gift to your loved ones.

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