June 19, 2013

Probate Referee

When a petition for probate has been filed and granted, the estate's personal representative is entrusted with collecting the decedent's assets and appraising them. While the personal representative may appraise some of the items, certain items require the expertise of a probate referee.

For reference, the probate referee is appointed once the order for probate has been granted. See Q6 - Form DE-140.   

(e) Proceeds of life and accident insurance policies and retirement plans and annuities payable on death in lump sum amounts.

The probate referee appraises all other property which typically includes real property, business interests, stocks, etc. Prob C § 8902.

The probate referee is entitled to a fee of 1/10 of 1% of the total value of the property for each estate appraised. Prob C §8961(a). The minimum fee is $75 and the maximum fee is $10,000, although the maximum fee can be increased upon the judge's discretion. Furthermore, the probate referee is allotted reimbursement costs for associated expenses, e.g. travel costs. Prob C §8961(b).   

The following is a hypothetical example of the inventory and appraisal process.

Danny Decedent, a widower, lived at 650 Rosewood Court Los Altos, CA 94024 and had 1 savings account at Star One Credit Union. The aforementioned constituted Danny's entire estate. Danny wrote a will that named his neighbor Jim Rogers as executor. When Danny died in 2013, Mr. Rogers probated the will in Santa Clara Superior Court. Upon being named executor of Danny's estate, Mr. Rogers completed his portion of the inventory and appraisal, i.e. he appraised the value of Danny's Star One account. Mr. Rogers then mailed the appraisal to the probate referee. 

The probate referee went to 650 Rosewood Court to appraise the home. The probate referee appraised the value of the home at $1M. Thereafter, the probate referee mailed his report back to Mr. Rogers and submitted a fee request of $1,000 for the appraisal and $25 for travel costs. Mr. Rogers then filed the completed inventory and appraisal with Santa Clara Superior Court in order to satisfy this probate requirement.