If you have been asked to serve as the personal representative for a family member or friend's estate in Los Angeles, then unless you have prior experience in probate law, estate administration or asset appraisal, you are likely viewing your new responsibilities with a certain degree of trepidation. Not to worry; the court understands that not everyone is an expert in estate matters. One of the most important aspects of preparing an estate for probate is determining its value. If your loved one's estate consists of a large amount of non-monetary assets, that may be difficult. Fortunately, you can call upon the assistance of a probate referee.
Probate referees are appointed to create an accurate appraisal of an estate's assets. Typically, they are attorneys themselves, certified public accountants, or have several years of experience in valuing and appraising property. Each county court usually employs one probate referee to help value assets such as:
- Real estate
- Business properties
- Stocks, bonds and other investment accounts
Probate referee fees are paid from the estate's assets, and can include costs incidental to completing one's duties. According the California State Controller's Office, those serving in these roles are required to complete a minimum of 15 hours of continuing education per year in order to learn the most up-to-date appraisal methods.
Now that you know who they are and what they do, the real question is whether you need a probate referee. That answer is almost always yes, unless the value of your loved one's estate is small enough to avoid having to go through probate. You also may not need one if the estate assets are being transferred to your loved one's surviving spouse through a spousal property petition.