Depending on which county you are in, and based on their local rules, a Probate Referee will be appointed by the Court. The Probate Referee determines the value of the decedent’s estate, but may not be needed if the decedent only owned assets that are cash-based. California Probate Code § 8901 states that the Personal Representative of the estate can value property such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, money market accounts, social security benefits, wages accrued before death, proceeds to life insurance, and CDs. A Probate Referee is not needed in these cases since a statement from the financial institution would be available stating the exact value of the accounts at the date of death.
A completed Inventory and Appraisal (Judicial Council Form DE-160) needs to be submitted to the Court within four months from the date the Letters were issued. Once the Personal Representative values the decedent’s assets the will complete item number one on the form which is the total value appraised by the Personal Representative and include “Attachment 1”. Included in “Attachment 1” will be the decedent’s vehicle, bank accounts, jewelry, and clothing. The Personal Representative will then give the Inventory and Appraisal to the Probate Referee, keeping in mind that it needs to be finished and filed with the Court within four months from the date the Letters were issued, so the Personal Representative should appraise the assets relatively quickly as the Probate Referee may have other estates that they need to appraise.
Value the Estate
According to California Probate Code § 8902, the Court-appointed Probate Referee appraises the remaining assets of the decedent and will value the decedent’s real property, mutual funds, stocks, and bonds. The Probate Referee needs to be compensated at a rate that is currently at one-tenth of a percent of the total value of the assets of the decedent, plus any costs that they accrued to appraise the estate. The Probate Referee cannot charge more than $10,000 regardless of the value of the decedent’s estate. The Probate Referee will fill out number two on the form, which is the total value of their appraisal and the total value supplied by the Personal Representative. This is the value of the decedent’s estate and this amount determines the statutory fees for compensation to the Personal Representative, the attorney, and the distributions that will be made to heirs and beneficiaries.