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Understanding the role of a probate referee

One who assumes the role of executor or personal representative of an estate in California takes on a huge responsibility. With that may come tasks one is not wholly familiar with, such as the valuation of estate assets.

Given the emphasis that those with a stake in one’s estate have on an accurate valuation, this is a job that leaves little room for error. Fortunately, personal representatives are not alone in accomplishing this task.

Working with a probate referee

Probate courts throughout California have access to local networks of professionals known as “probate referees.” A probate referee is one who has a vast knowledge in asset valuation that works in concert with personal representatives to establish appropriate market values of estate assets. In most cases, the court appoints a probate referee at the request of a personal representative (they can, however, also assist in the administration of trusts and other non-probate matters).

Most of those who work as probate referees do so on top of their personal careers. Many work as certified public accountants or are attorneys familiar with both probate code and financial market trends. To become a probate referee, one must certify through the state. According to the California State Controller’s Office, they then must complete at least 15 hours of continuing education every year in order to maintain their certification. This helps them to stay up-to-date on the most current appraisal methods.

Compensatio for probate referees

Probate referees do not serve on a voluntary basis; they do receive compensation for their work. That compensation comes from the estate’s assets. Per the California Probate Referee’s Association, the compensation cannot exceed 1/10 of 1% of the assets they assist in evaluating (with a minimum fee set at $75).