Inventory and Appraisal in California Probate

An inventory and appraisal is a required filing in California probate.  The inventory and appraisal is a single document that (1) inventories the property in the decedent’s estate and (2) contains an appraisal of the property in the inventory.  California Probate Code § 8800(a).

What Is The Deadline To File The Inventory And Appraisal?

4 months.  The inventory and appraisal must be filed within 4 months from the date that letters are issued to a California personal representative.  Extensions can be requested.  California Probate Code § 8800(b).

Supplemental inventories can also be filed if a personal representative learns of property that was not included in the prior inventory and appraisal.  The supplemental inventory and appraisal must be filed within 4 months after the personal representative acquires knowledge of the property.

For a complete chart of deadlines and timelines in California probate, click here.

What Is Contained In An Inventory And Appraisal?

The inventory need only list those assets that have come into the possession of the personal representative or are known to the personal representative.

Each item must be listed separately, and the fair market value of the item at the time of decedent’s death must be listed.  California Probate Code  § 8802.

The following property must be specifically identified in an inventory and appraisal:

  • Money owed to the decedent and any security for same.
  • A statement of the interest of decedent in a partnership.
  • Decedent’s money and other cash items.
  • Portions of the decedent’s property that are community, quasi-community, and separate property.
  • A statement that bond is waived, or the amount of the bond and whether or not it is a sufficient amount.

At the same time that the inventory and appraisal is filed, a certification that the requirements of Revenue & Tax Code section 480 either:

  • Do not apply because Decedent did not own real property in California
  • Are satisfied because a change in ownership statement has been filed

Who Makes the Appraisal of Decedent’s California Probate Property?

The inventory property is appraised by the personal representative, a probate referee, or an independent appraiser.

Property Appraised By the Personal Representative

The property that is appraised by the personal representative is listed in section 8901 of the California Probate Code:

  • Money and other cash items. As used in this subdivision, a “cash item” is a check, draft, money order, or similar instrument issued on or before the date of the decedent’s death that can be immediately converted to cash.
  • The following checks issued after the date of the decedent’s death:
  • >>>Checks for wages earned before death.
  • >>>Refund checks, including tax and utility refunds, and Medicare, medical insurance, and other health care reimbursements and payments.
  • Accounts (as defined in Section 21) in financial institutions.
  • Cash deposits and money market mutual funds, as defined in subdivision (b) of Section 9730, whether in a financial institution or otherwise, including a brokerage cash account. All other mutual funds, stocks, bonds, and other securities shall be appraised pursuant to Sections 8902 to 8909, inclusive.
  • Proceeds of life and accident insurance policies and retirement plans and annuities payable on death in lump sum amounts.

Property Appraised By the Probate Referee

The California probate referee shall appraise all property other than that appraised by the personal representative.

Property Appraised By an Independent Expert

If the inventory of a California decedent contains a unique, artistic, unusual, or special item, then the personal representative can elect to have an independent expert, as opposed to the probate referee, appraise the item.  California Probate Code section 8904.

Can I Object To an Appraisal in California Probate?

Yes, an appraisal can be objected to at any time prior to the hearing on the petition for final distribution of the estate.  A written objection can be filed by the personal representative or any interested person.    California Probate Code  § 8906.

If the California probate court determines that the objection was not filed with reasonable cause or good faith, then the court can order that the fees of the personal representative and attorney be charged against the objector.

What Happens If An Inventory and Appraisal Is Not Filed?

If the California personal representative fails to file the inventory and appraisal, there are several remedies available to interested persons in the estate.

An interested person can petition to compel the filing of the inventory and appraisal, and the court can order that the inventory and appraisal be filed within a certain time period.

Another option is that an interested person can petition for removal of the personal representative.  This remedy is certainly more extreme than petitioning to compel the filing of the inventory and appraisal.

Finally, upon petition of an interested person, the California probate court can impose damages for any injury to the estate resulting from the failure to file the inventory and appraisal.

Andrew Gold, Esq.