People in California who own substantial property and assets might have some questions about what their real and tangible property is worth. In a volatile real estate market, significant fluctuations in property value can be common, so an updated appraisal of the property may be necessary. Estate planning decisions may revolve around the value of these assets, so it's important for people to understand how the appraisal process in California works.
The state of California employs the use of numerous probate referees, who are appointed by the court and are responsible for assessing the value of all property which comes before the probate court. In most probate cases, the use of a probate referee is required. Probate referees may also be used in many non-probate matters, including trust and estate administration actions before the court.
The job of the probate referee is essentially to review and appraise all real property listed in a trust or estate in order to determine its fair market value. The fees for the services of a probate referee are set by state law, and are relatively reasonable at 1/10 of 1% of the value of the appraised property.
The probate referee is an impartial entity, which may help people with a perceived interest in the estate, such as a trust administrator, protect themselves from the perception of a conflict of interests. But relying on the services of a probate referee in no way requires an administrator to relinquish control or compromise their duties, it just allows them a convenient and impartial way to determine the value of assets in question. However, a probate referee will not appraise real estate and tangible property located outside of the state of California, so another valuation process must be considered in such cases.
Working with a probate referee can be simple, but it still requires the use of an experienced estate law attorney to prepare the necessary documentation and oversee the process.
Source: California Probate Guide - accessed Sept. 14, 2014