Most in Westminster have probably heard it said that people should avoid probate whenever possible. That is because the cost of going through probate is taken from the estate's assets, thus limiting that amount that is left over to be dispersed to one's beneficiaries. Yet that does not necessarily mean that probate is a bad thing. Truth be told, the probate court can offer a personal representative a great deal of assistance in administering an estate. One such resource is a probate referee.
Among the responsibilities of a personal representative is to attain an appraisal of all of the estate's assets. This can be quite a challenge, especially if one is not familiar with current market conditions or appraisal methods. Fortunately, the probate court will typically appoint a probate referee to an estate case to handle this. Probate referees are often attorneys or Certified Public Accountants who specialize specifically in appraisals. Not just anyone can earn this designation; according to the California State Controllers Office, prospective probate referees must first pass a state-administered test, and then complete 15 hours of continuing education annually. Every county in the state will have at least one probate referee designated to handle that area's probate cases.
A probate referee adds legitimacy to the estate administration process. Section 8908 of the California Probate Code states that a personal representative or beneficiary of an estate can request an appraisal report from the probate referee at time during the probate process. The probate referee is obliged to provide any and all information related to the appraisal of the estate except that which has been deemed by the court as confidential.