In California, probate courts typically require the trustee or executor of the estate to hire a probate referee. If you are filling the role of a trustee or executor, the California Probate Referee System can make your job much easier.
Here are some of the ways the probate referee can help you.
Perform a professional appraisal
One of your jobs is to perform an inventory of the estate. This could be for the probate process, or as one of the duties of a trustee. This inventory shows not only what is in the estate, but how much it is worth. The value of the estate's noncash items is necessary to determine what taxes the estate owes, how much items may sell for if you must liquidate assets to pay debts or divide property for distribution, and more. While you prepare the inventory, you probably do not have the knowledge necessary to appraise assets. Probate referees receive training and must take a test before they can provide expert appraisals for estates.
Items that may need appraisal include the following:
- Tangible personal property, such as jewelry, vehicles, household items and more
- Securities such as stocks, mutual funds and bonds
- Insurance policies and annuities
- Royalty interests and intellectual property
Protect you from conflict
You are a fiduciary of the estate, meaning you act on the financial behalf of the estate and its beneficiaries. If you were to hire an independent appraiser to value the assets, someone could accuse you of seeking to over- or under-value the assets, and it could lead to a legal dispute. By having an impartial third party available to perform the appraisal of the assets, you reduce the chances that the IRS, a creditor or one of the beneficiaries will challenge the value placed on each asset.