The fee charged to file a probate petition is approximately $500, but may be slightly higher in some counties due to surcharges. There will be an additional fee of approximately $500 when the petition for final distribution is filed. There are other fees for probate publication of the notice, for the California probate referee, and for certification of copies of court documents.
California Probate Code § 10810 sets the maximum statutory fees that attorneys can charge for probate in California. Higher fees can be ordered by a court for more complicated cases. If the Executor or Administrator wishes to receive a fee for administering the probate process the Executor or Administrator can receive the same fee that the attorney is entitled to receive. There are some probates in California that are complicated by lawsuits or tax problems. In those cases, the Executor or Administrator and the attorney can ask the judge to approve fees that are higher than those that are set by law. The value of the estate is determined, in general, by the inventory for the estate. (if an accounting of the estate has been waived, the total value of the estate for attorney's fees purposes is the inventory, plus gains on sales, minus losses on sales.) Debts are not included in determining attorney's fees, and if a house is appraised at $1,000,000, for example, and it has a mortgage of $800,000, it is still considered a $1,000,000 asset for the purpose of calculating attorney's fees.