SANTA CRUZ -- Brian Nicholson has been named probate referee for Santa Cruz County, filling a vacancy created by the death of Bruce McGuire. He joins Capitola attorney Victor Campos, who was first appointed in 1975.

Probate referees are appointed by the state controller, currently John Chiang, after passing an exam. They serve a specific county for a term not exceeding four years.

Referees appraise all property except cash in an estate for the purposes of estate taxes. Their fee is set by statute, one-tenth of 1 percent of the assets.

Nicholson previously was a probate referee for Santa Clara County.

He established Nicholson and Co. in 1983. The Aptos firm specializes in commercial, residential and litigation appraisals, and works in not only Santa Cruz, but also Monterey, San Benito, Santa Clara, and San Mateo counties.

According to its website the firm has six licensed appraisers.

Nicholson and his wife Marguerite own Nicholson Vineyards in Corralitos, which is open Saturday afternoons, and added an olive grove in 2005.

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