In California, a personal representative and his attorney’s right to receive fees for the work they performed in administering the decedent’s estate is strictly statutory. Generally, the amount of fees paid to the personal representative and attorney for ordinary services are based on a percentage of the value of the decedent’s estate. The statutory California Probate Fee Schedule is as follows:
The amount of compensation is cumulative. Therefore, if the estate is valued at $1.2 million, then the personal representative and his attorney will be entitled to 4% of the first $100,000 ($4,000), 3% of the next $100,000 ($3,000), 2% of the next $800,000 ($16,000), and 1% of the next $9 million ($2,000). Based on these calculations, the personal representative and his attorney will be entitled to $25,000 each for their administration of the estate.
As the fees are statutory, the court has no discretion as to the amount of fees to be paid. This is true regardless of the size of the estate or the complexity of the administration. Therefore, even if the $1.2 million estate was extremely simple and took the personal representative and attorney very little time and effort to administer the estate, the court must award the personal representative and attorney their statutory fees. However, even though such fees are statutory and mandatory, such payments may not be taken out of the estate without court order and approval.
In addition to the statutory fees for ordinary services, the personal representative and attorney may also request the court to award them additional fees for extraordinary services. Ordinary services are those that typically occur in the administration of an estate, such as inventorying and marshalling the assets, collecting rents, and preparing and filing the necessary paperwork in the probate. Extraordinary services, on the other hand, include non routine services such as selling real or personal property, defending an action against the personal representative, and securing a loan to pay estate debts. Unlike the statutory fees, the award of these fees is based on the discretion of the court.