Duties and Role of a Probate Referee
The role of a probate referee is to determine the value of all non-cash property in the estate. The administrator for the estate will give the probate referee a list of assets in the estate. The document that lists the estate assets is the Inventory and Appraisal. The Inventory will have several attachments. Attachment 1 to the Inventory and Appraisal lists all cash assets. Attachment 2 lists all non-cash assets such as real estate, stocks and bonds, business property, art or other valuable collectables, furniture, other household items, and vehicles. The role of a probate referee is to determine the individual values of all items on Attachment 2 of the Inventory.
Once the probate referee finishes valuing the non-cash assets of the estate, he/she must sign the Inventory and Appraisal (Form DE-160). This document includes a statement that the valuations made by the probate referee were honest, impartial, and to the best of their ability. Once the probate referee finishes the appraisal, the personal representative is responsible to pay the referee’s fee for valuing the estate assets. The probate referee fee is equal to 0.1% of the total value of the estate assets listed on Attachment 2. For small estates, the probate referee has a minimum fee of $75. For very large estates, the probate referee has a maximum fee of $10 million. Usually the probate referee will not release the Inventory and Appraisal form until they receive payment. Once the referee receives their payment and releases the Inventory, you can file it with the probate court and proceed to finalize the probate process.
Will You Need a Probate Referee?
Most probate cases require a probate referee, but there are a few exceptions. If the estate is a small estate that is being settled through an affidavit rather than a court proceeding, the role of a probate referee might not be required. A probate referee is also not required when filing a spousal petition. Lastly, if the estate requires probate, and only lists cash assets on attachment 1 of the Inventory, then the court will not require a probate referee. Lastly, if an administrator can show good cause, he/she can petition the court to waive the probate referee requirement, and the court will hold a hearing to decide the matter. Be aware, however, that Judges rarely grant such a request.
The role of a probate referee in probate cases is very important in the probate process. Many counties in California will automatically appoint a probate referee. If the court does not automatically appoint one, the administrator will need to file a form with the court to request the court appoint the probate referee. The local forms vary from county to county, so an administrator should check with their local courts to determine what steps are necessary to appoint the probate referee. You can find a listing of probate referees through the California Probate Referee Association or through the California State Controller’s Office website. In small estate proceedings, the administrator may select any probate referee in the county where property in the estate is located.
A People’s Choice has extensive experience preparing probate documentation. If you need help with a California probate, or help completing an Inventory and Appraisal, contact us today at 800-747-2780.
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