In California, representatives of probated estates must perform an inventory of all assets for the court to appraise. The inventory and appraisal of the decedent’s estate determines the value of the estate as of the date of the decedent’s death. Regardless of whether the decedent left a will, California courts require inventory and appraisal of all estates under certain probate processes. Specifically, the small estate affidavit process for estates with real property under $55,425, the small estate process for estates with real property under $166,250, and full probate proceedings for estates over $166,250 require inventory and appraisal. However, spousal petitions are exempt from the California probate inventory and appraisal process. Also, although all assets in a decedent’s estate require inventory, not all assets require appraisal.

The Inventory and Appraisal Process

The inventory and appraisal process takes place after the court issues letters to the estate representative. Then, the representative is tasked with identifying all the assets, selecting a probate referee and arranging their completion of the inventory and appraisal, and filing the completed forms with the court.


In a full probate proceeding, the representative must complete the inventory of the decedent’s estate within four months after the court appoints them. Inventory should include all property owned by the decedent such as real property; cash, checking, savings and investment accounts; household furniture; jewelry; collectibles such as coin collections, antiques and record collections; business interests, and other assets. Once the representative identifies relevant assets, they list them on an inventory and appraisal form. Further, they must identify assets as either requiring appraisal or not requiring appraisal.

Note that cash assets do not require appraisal. That said, the representative must still detail and value the cash assets on the inventory and appraisal form based on the date of death. Additionally, the representative should list the bank institution, account type, and account number.

Probate Referees

Although the estate representative must detail them, non-cash assets require appraisal by a probate referee. The probate referee appraises non-monetary assets because the value is harder to determine. While the representative may choose a probate referee for smaller estates, the court appoints probate referees for large estates requiring a full probate.

Note that probate referees will charge a fee for their services. In California, the statutory fee is one-tenth of 1% (.001) of the total assets they appraise. This fee does not apply to cash assets since those assets do not require appraisal. In addition, the probate referee can charge for mileage. Finally, for smaller estates, the probate referee will usually charge a minimum fee of $75.00 for their services.


In detailing the estate’s assets, the representative must indicate whether the decedent owned a partial interest or 100% interest of each asset listed. If the decedent owned a partial interest, the probate referee will appraise the value of that asset based on the decedent’s partial share interest. Then, the probate referee will sign a statement attesting to the value they have identified for each non-monetary asset valued. Finally, this signed statement, known as Inventory and Appraisal Form DE-160, is filed with the probate court.

Tips For a Successful Probate Estate Inventory and Appraisal

Inventory and appraisal is a key part of probating a decedent’s estate. Therefore, when taking the inventory of real property, it is important to check all title documents to determine 1) the decedent’s proper percentage of ownership; and 2) whether the asset is subject to probate. Unfortunately, an incorrectly detailed asset, such as real property with an error in the legal description, can create problems down the road. Luckily, if the representative discovers an incorrect value or description of an asset, they can use a corrective inventory and appraisal form.

Additionally, representatives must ensure the inventory and appraisal form is filed with the court within the specified time frame. Plus, they should check that the form describes all cash and non-cash assets in detail. That said, if the representative discovers an asset after filing the first inventory and appraisal, they may complete a supplemental inventory and appraisal form.

Finally, estate representatives should consider contacting A People’s Choice for help preparing the required inventory and appraisal forms. A People’s Choice can also prepare all the required legal documents to probate your loved one’s estate. Professional, low-cost help is only a phone call away. Call today at 800-747-2780 for more information.

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