In most cases, the personal representative of an estate will retain a probate attorney to help administer the estate. In California, the personal representative and his or her attorney are entitled to ordinary compensation for their services, the amount of which is determined entirely by statute. Pursuant to California Probate Code sections 10800 and 10810, compensation is based on the value of the estate as follows:
- Four percent on the first $100,000.
- Three percent on the next $100,000.
- Two percent on the next $800,000.
- One percent on the next $9,000,000.
- One-half of one percent on the next $15,000,000.
- For all amounts above $25,000,000, a reasonable amount will be determined by the Court.
Therefore, if an estate is worth $400,000, the personal representative and his or her attorney are each entitled to $11,000 ($4,000 for the first $100,000; $3,000 for the second $100,000; $2,000 for the third $100,000; and $2,000 for the fourth $100,000). The personal representative may choose to waive his or her right to compensation, which often happens when he or she is a family member or the sole beneficiary of the estate.
In certain circumstances, the Court may allow additional compensation for "extraordinary" services in an amount the Court determines is just and reasonable. Examples of "extraordinary" services that may be awarded by the Court include litigation undertaken to benefit the estate or to protect its interests; federal estate tax matters; sales of property; defense of a contested will; and extraordinary efforts to locate estate assets.
Finally, the personal representative is allowed all necessary expenses in the administration of the estate, which include the costs of the probate proceedings. These costs include court filings and publication of the petition to probate the estate. Typically, probate costs are advanced by the estate's attorney and are refunded from the estate upon distribution of the estate's assets.