living trust litigation and probate referees

Living Trust Litigation and Probate Referees

 

Living Trust Litigation and Probate Referees

 

A probate referee provides appraisals of non-cash type assets in living trust litigation. This process eventually leads to the determination of trustee fees. A wise and prudent trustee can use a probate referee to shield that trustee from beneficiary claims brought in living trust litigation. Probate referees go through a state testing procedure and are looked upon with favor the the probate courts. In living trust litigation probate referee fees are negotiable and compare favorably with charges made by fee appraisers. Appraisal fees are highly competitive and using a probate referee is economically advantageous. 

 

Living Trust Litigation

 

In living trust litigation probate referees may serve to insulate a co-successor trustee from petitions for claims by the beneficiaries that the assets were undervalued or even overvalued for distribution, fee determination purposes or any other conflict of interest that the probate petition for breach of trust or breach of fiduciary duty may claim. 

Probate referees can make the trustees job easier. In living trust litigation the probate referee can act as a fair and independent appraiser for real property. Most fiduciaries are not experienced appraisers. If the fiduciary makes an error in valuation, the fiduciary may expose himself or herself to surcharge or mismanagement claims. Use of the Probate Referee may insulate the fiduciary from such claims, and ensures the valuations will be made in a professional, non-biased, and independent manner.

Trustees must comply with the Uniform Prudent Investors Act or they could be liable to surcharge and other penalties as a result of living trust litigation. Many trustees exposed to living trust litigation would be wise to investigate the use of probate referees prior to hiring a fee appraiser.  Probate referees are also more experienced with probate inventory and appraisals required by the probate court. Living trust administration is complex business and therefore a trustee should start with an education in probate court referees.