California uses a 4-3-2-1 system to calculate statutory probate fees. Four percent of the first $100,000 of property in probate, 3% of the next $100,000, 2% of the next $800,000, and 1% over $1 million.
For example: your home in Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Orange County or Santa Barbara County has a fair market value of $750,000. Under the 4-3-2-1 system, probate fees will be:
4% of the first $100,000 = $4,000 3% of the next $100,000 = $3,000 2% of the next $550,000 = $11,000
TOTAL STATUTORY PROBATE FEES: $18,000
Those fees are calculated on the property’s fair market value and NOT on the equity. Even if your $750,000 home has a mortgage of $500,000, the fees will still be $18,000.
Moreover, the fees are sometimes paid twice: once to the probate attorney and once to the executor or administrator of the estate. The attorney and executor do not split the fee; each one of them earns the entire amount.