Could I save you $112,000? I was sitting in a San Diego Probate Court several months after taking the California Bar and waiting for the results. I was astounded at the fact that a piece of property owned by the Decedent was being assessed statutory probate fees based on its fair market value (f.m.v.) of $1.3 Million. The reason being is that it had mortgages against it of a total of $850,000-- an equity of about $450,000. As I sat there I came to personally realize and exclaim to myself "California doesn't deduct debt in determining statutory probate fees!" No wonder these lawyers were anxious to probate an estate. This particular estate had been in probate about thirteen months. There were some estate tax issues to resolve so the attorneys were also asking for additional exemplary fees which were burdensome on the estate. The heirs sat in dismay as the Court granted request after request for attorney fees, CPA fees, appraisal fees, etc. This was only one of numerous probate accountings being heard by the Court that day. It goes on and on, almost every week of the year. Millions in probate fees being tallied annually. Unbelievable! But why? Why are the dockets filled with probate matters? Oh yeah, of course-- we are dealing with the real world here and the Estate Planning cancer called PROCRASTINATION.
Attention all procrastinators! We need to talk. There is something you have been putting off and don't quite understand. Over the next thirteen weeks, we are going to be talking about Estate Planning. That's right, the subject you've been postponing because it makes you face the reality of life, which includes aging, death and possibly, incapacity. Oh, sorry. It's not a good time? Okay, when will it be a good time? On the way to the hospital in the back of an ambulance? Hooked up to a machine? After that catastrophic stroke?