Gayle J. Carson





I work with families to assist them chart a course through the long voyage of probate administration.  Whether the deceased person has left a will (testamentary succession) or has not left a will (intestate succession), I work closely with the executors/administrators to shepard the process through the probate court as efficiently and quickly as possible. There are many ways an asset (bank account/stock/insurance/land/IRA) can end up requiring a probate administration. Any asset that has one of the following will require a probate administration.


1. Asset held in the name of only 1 individual without any indication of joint ownership or other beneficiary designation.

2. No beneficiary designation (or predeceased beneficiary) on an asset which would normally avoid probate such as an insurance policy, IRA, etc.

3. No joint tenant (or predeceased joint tenant) or no payable on death beneficiary.

The steps of a probate administration start with petitioning the court to appoint an executor (if there is a will) or an administrator (if there is no will). A hearing is held (typically 60 to 90 days from the date the petition is filed) and the court appoints an Executor or Administrator (both also known as Personal Representatives and/or Fiduciaries). The Personal Representative may be required to post a bond (essentially an insurance policy for the beneficiaries in the event the Personal Representative does not discharge his or her duties correctly).

A legal classified notice must be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the city of decedent's residence. That notice informs the "public" of the existence of the probate administration and acts as notification to creditors. If the decedent owed a debt to anyone at the time of his death, creditors have four months to file a claim with the Court. The personal representative is charged with reviewing the claim and deciding whether or not to approve or reject the claim.


If there are assets other than bank accounts, the probate court will appoint a probate referee (an appraiser for all other assets). Once the referee values the assets, the personal representative must file an Inventory and Appraisal listing all the assets being administered.


Once the four month "claims of creditors" period has expired, the personal representative will file a Final Accounting and Petition for Settlement and Distribution. This petition and account will list all of the events occurring during the administration and will account for all assets, income, expenditures and distributions, if any. This petition is also set for hearing approximately 60 to 90 days from date of filing.


How long does a probate (administration) take?
The answer is approximately 11 months to ? years, depending on many variables, the main ones being sale of real estate and disputes among beneficiaries.


How much does a probate administration cost?
There are two parts to this answer: 1) expenses and
2) compensation. Normally, we request $2,000.00 as a retainer to cover: Filing fees = $930.00 ($465.00 x2), Bond (if required) [$500 - $1,800.00]; legal advertising (also known as "publication") $400-$1,200.00; probate referee = 1% of the value of assets appraised

The Personal Representative and their attorney are allowed the same compensation by California statute:

4% of the first $100,000.00 of probate assets
3% of the second $100,000.00
2% of the next $800,000.00
1% over $1,000,000.00

Uncle Ted dies without a will. His assets are his residence (held in joint tenancy with his wife, but she has predeceased him), a checking account with a $25,000 balance in his name alone and a $50,000.00 IRA with no beneficiary (he named his wife, but neglected to revise the beneficiary designation when she died before him). The deductions from the estate would be as follows:

$930 filing fees for filing the initial & closing petitions

$500–$1,800 annual bond premium, if required
$400–$1,200 ad for "notice of administration"
$950 Probate referee
$22,500 Executor/Administrator compensation—
can be waived
$22,500.00 Attorney for Executor/Administrator


$47,780.00—$49, 880.00