Is probate expensive? Considerations on the cost of probate processes

Is probate expensive? Considerations on the cost of probate processes
Last Updated on October 3, 2022 by Carlos Lopez

As it happens with any legal process, when the time of dealing with probate comes the first thing that crosses your mind is how expensive it is going to be

Actually, knowing the cost of a probate in an exact fashion is almost impossible, due to many aspects involved and differences in every case.

So, is probate expensive? While the answer is usually a clear yes because of everything that implies, there are a few considerations to take into account that affect final charges.

Let´s review them, so you can know what to expect when a probate is on the horizon. 

Why is a probate necessary? A court-supervised decedent’s estate validation and distribution process 

Before getting deeply into monetary aspects regarding probate, clearing up the actual concept and what it means is important.

In detail, probate makes reference to the court-supervised estate validation, evaluation, inventorying and distribution process of a person who unfortunately passed away. 

For the eventual estate´s assets distribution to take place, such belongings must be validated in terms of ownership and legal status, as well as amount and type of possessions and properties, related taxes and jurisdiction.

Even by having a will, probate must be carried out, according to criteria given by law´s jurisdiction. 

Now, why is a probate necessary to be executed? This type of legal process becomes essential for beneficiaries to claim inheritance, given by a will or calculated by probate court in case of intestate dead, with previous asset evaluation and tax and fee payment. 

How expensive is probate: What makes estate evaluation and transfer so costly?

Broadly speaking, answering how expensive a probate would turn out to be depends on different aspects of the case.

However, due to the court-supervised nature of the process, it always ends up taking a cut on the estate´s total amount, due to the many fees, taxes and related expenses. 

When it comes to probate charges, everything comes down to these case features and decedent´s financial status left behind: 

Size of the estate

The amount of assets, properties and possessions that make part of the decedent’s estate play a huge role when it comes to probate. 

A particularly big estate will make the process longer and more expensive, although some properties do not qualify for the process. Even some small estates would not apply for probate all together, depending on the jurisdiction criteria. 

Jurisdiction or state where you live

Along with estate size, jurisdiction is key regarding how expensive a probate process can become.

Depending on the state where you live, the estate’s assets threshold could be bigger or smaller, as well as the court and federal fees and taxes.

Location is a huge deal for probate processes and their reasonable or not reasonable cost. 

Estate´s current situation 

Actually, it all depends on the current situation of the estate.

Not all assets are the same, occurring the same in terms of number of beneficiaries and also the assets´ ownership condition and decedent´s pending taxes and debts. 

All of these aspects make the estate situation more complex to address, translating into more time to solve it and also in more expenses to cover.

Estate´s condition also affects lawyer fees and court fees. With a will, probate tends to get simpler

Dispute or contesting status

Validating the estate or will through the probate allows related parties to dispute it for several reasons. When this happens, another set of procedures and legal tasks must be done, making the probate longer and more expensive. 

Why does probate cost money 

As a legal and court-supervised procedure, probates involve a series of charges, fees and expenses of different nature. This with the purpose of reaching the estate distribution stage, which is the intention of every beneficiary or creditor. 

In more depth, probate-related payments can be divided into: 

  • Court fees: probate courts charge fees for every procedure that probate requires. Costs are not standardized and depend on the state where you are, characteristics of the case mentioned previously and more factors. Court expenses include: filing fees, certificate or letter of administration fees, as well as notifications. 
  • Bond or executor fees: with bond or executor fees, administrators can make sure of getting repaid for expenses made during and related to the probate, like taxes, settlements and traveling, or even get a fee for the job done as representative. 
  • Probate attorney fees: probate lawyers offer representation and legal support during the process, which can be of significant help. In fact, in some states hiring a probate attorney is mandatory, involving lawyer’s fees that could be flat, by the hour or taken from the estate at the moment of transfer. 

Other types of payments that can be given in probate cases are: postage and appraisal fees, business validation, storage and notary fees.

Most expensive probate states in the United States 

When it comes to probates, there are more expensive states than others in the United States, with higher fees and related taxes, as well as lower estate´s asset thresholds for property owners and lawyer’s fees. Here is a list: 

  • Connecticut: the state charges with estate taxes with a rate of up to 12%, and estates exceeding 2 million dollars pay over the sum and a flat fee of $5615.  
  • Illinois: the state charges from 0,8% to 16% in estate taxes, with an average cost per probate cost between $4000 to $6000. 
  • Iowa: while in Iowa estate tax does not apply, an inheritance tax does, with a rate of about 12% tops. Estates smaller than $25000 do not apply for probate in the state. 

How much do lawyers charge per hour?

Subject to aspects of jurisdiction and general characteristics of the probate case, the lawyer´s related fees may reach from $150 to $300 dollars per hour. This is a frequent rate to see in a city like Washington D.C.

At Carlos Law Firm LLC, you will get professional, efficient and valuable legal representation for your probate cases, with affordable rates.

My team and I will help you decide between paying by the hour, a flat fee or charging with a percentage of the estate´s value, whatever is best according to the case.


  1. Ameer says:

    Wow, who knew probate could be so pricey? Definitely something to consider when planning an estate!

    • London Mullins says:

      Actually, probate costs can vary depending on the complexity of the estate. Its important to consult with an expert to understand the potential expenses involved. Dont let assumptions cloud your judgment.

  2. Isaac Huerta says:

    Wow, I had no idea probate could be so costly! Definitely makes you think twice about estate planning.

    • Ismael Hale says:

      Yes, probate costs can be quite eye-opening. Its essential to prioritize estate planning to avoid unnecessary expenses and ensure your assets are distributed as per your wishes. Ignoring it may lead to a financial nightmare for your loved ones.

  3. Kase Li says:

    Comment: I never knew probate could be so pricey! Who knew estate evaluation could burn a hole in your pocket? 😮💸

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