BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



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          Date of Hearing:  April 30, 2013

                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
                                Bob Wieckowski, Chair
                    AB 1293 (Bloom) - As Amended:  April 23, 2013

           SUBJECT  :  COURTS: PROBATE FEE

           KEY ISSUE  :  TO HELP INCREASE NEEDED FINANCIAL RESOURCES FOR THE  
          TRIAL COURTS, SHOULD A NEW FEE BE CREATED FOR A REQUEST FOR  
          SPECIAL NOTICE IN A PROBATE CASE?

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  As currently in print this bill is keyed  
          non-fiscal.  

                                      SYNOPSIS

          This bill, sponsored by the Judicial Council, seeks to increase  
          revenue for the courts by creating a new probate fee.   
          Specifically, this bill creates a new $40 fee for requests of  
          special notice filed in probate proceedings, including  
          proceedings involving decedents' estates, conservatorships,  
          guardianships and trusts.  These are requests made by interested  
          individuals to get copies of records of various petitions and  
          other documents, including inventories, appraisals and  
          accountings, filed with the court.  While the parties, and not  
          the courts, are responsible for actually providing the requested  
          documents to the relevant individuals, the Judicial Council  
          believes that this new fee will help cover the courts' costs  
          incurred in ensuring that proper notice and other information  
          has been provided to all individuals requesting special notice  
          and that, if such information has not been provided, postponing  
          any relevant hearing.  The Council estimates that this new fee  
          will result in nearly $200,000 in new revenue for the courts.  

          As amended, this bill is only one small piece of the Judicial  
          Council's efforts to increase resources for the courts.  Several  
          provisions of the bill were removed due to strong opposition and  
          the Judicial Council is still looking for new ways to increase  
          funding, increase efficiencies and reduce expenditures.  Given  
          the potential controversies that may arise in conjunction with  
          some of these proposals, the sponsor has agreed not to add any  
          provision to the bill without the Committee's prior approval and  
          the author has agreed to bring the bill back to this Committee  
          should it be amended, consistent with the Committee's rules. 








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           SUMMARY  :  Seeks to increase resources for the courts by creating  
          a new probate fee.  Specifically,  this bill  adds a new $40 fee  
          for filing a request for special notice in a decedent's estate,  
          guardianship, conservatorship or trust proceeding.  Provides  
          that the $40 fee is in addition to any other fee charged for a  
          paper filed concurrently with the request for special notice.

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Allows for the filing, without an additional fee, of a request  
            for special notice in a proceeding concerning a decedent's  
            estate.  Allows the requester, whether a devisee, heir,  
            creditor or trust beneficiary, in person or by attorney, to  
            request special notice of, among other things, petitions,  
            inventories, appraisals, accounts, and status reports.   
            (Probate Code Section 1250.  Unless stated otherwise, all  
            further statutory references are to that code.)

          2)Allows for the filing, without an additional fee, of a request  
            for special notice in a proceeding concerning a  
            conservatorship or guardianship.  Allows the requester,  
            whether the ward, if over 14, the conservatee, the spouse of  
            the ward or conservatee, any relative or creditor of the ward  
            or conservatee or any other interested person, in person or by  
            attorney, to request special notice of, among other things,  
            petitions, inventories, appraisals, accounts, and final  
            termination proceedings.  (Section 2700.)

          3)Allows for the filing, without an additional fee, of a request  
            for special notice in a proceeding concerning a trust.  Allows  
            a trust beneficiary or a creditor, in person or by attorney,  
            to request special notice of petitions regarding the trust.   
            (Section 17204.)

           COMMENTS :  This bill, sponsored by the Judicial Council, seeks  
          to increase revenue for the courts by creating a new probate  
          fee.  In support of the bill, the author writes:
           
               As we look forward to the coming year, the Governor's  
               proposed budget for FY 2013-2014 will allocate only 1% of  
               the General Fund-just one penny out of each dollar-to fund  
               the entire judicial branch.

               In order to prevent catastrophic shutdowns of courts, a  








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               series of efficiencies and cost-recovery proposals have  
               been implemented, including increases in court user-fees  
               and fine assessments, and the diversion of over $1 billion  
               in statewide infrastructure and courthouse construction  
               funds to court operations.

               Because of the challenging budget times in which we find  
               ourselves, and despite the fact that all parties - from the  
               court users themselves to the Chief Justice of California -  
               would prefer to not have to increase fees, we must bolster  
               the judicial branch as best we can with the most practical  
               solutions available.  The trial courts are suffering from a  
               sharp decrease in funding.

           Scarce Court Resources Must be Expended Prudently to Help Ensure  
          Justice for All  .  Historically, trial courts in California were  
          county entities, funded by the counties, but in 1997, after  
          significant problems came to light with the county-based court  
          funding model, the Legislature passed the Lockyer-Isenberg Trial  
          Court Funding Act, AB 233 (Escutia and Pringle), Ch. 850, Stats.  
          1997.  Under that bill, the state assumed responsibility for  
          funding the courts and helping ensure equal access to a quality  
          judicial system statewide.  After the state took over funding,  
          the courts received significant funding increases and  
          historically underfunded courts saw greater increases.   
          Unfortunately, the recession forced significant reductions in  
          state General Fund support for the courts, but "one-time" fixes,  
          backfills and new revenues has, to date, substantially spared  
          the court system the brunt of the General Fund reductions.

          Even though trial courts have, to date, largely been spared the  
          bulk of the General Fund reductions, trial courts have taken  
          dramatic steps to address the budget cuts, including (1) closing  
          courthouses and courtrooms, some on selected days and others  
          completely; (2) laying off or furloughing employees; and (3)  
          reducing services, including substantial cuts to self-help and  
          family law facilitator assistance, and providing fewer court  
          reporters and court interpreters.  While the Governor's 2013-14  
          budget does not propose any additional cuts to the trial courts  
          and includes restoration of a $418 million one-time General Fund  
          reduction made this past year, some of the one-time fixes are  
          set to expire.  As a result, it is anticipated that courts will  
          be looking for additional ways to reduce expenditures, unless  
          there is an infusion of additional funds.  









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           New Fee On Request For Special Notice in Probate  :  This bill is  
          part of the Judicial Council's response to the judiciary's  
          budget cuts.  As recently amended, this bill creates a new $40  
          fee for requests of special notice filed in probate proceedings,  
          including proceedings involving decedents' estates,  
          conservatorships, guardianships and trusts.  These are requests  
          made by interested individuals to get copies of records of  
          various petitions and other documents, including inventories,  
          appraisals and accountings filed with the court.  This allows  
          interested third parties to follow developments in a particular  
          probate matter.  While the parties, and not the courts, are  
          responsible for actually providing the requested documents to  
          the relevant individuals, the Judicial Council believes that  
          this new fee will help cover the courts' costs incurred in  
          ensuring that proper notice and other information has been given  
          to all individuals requesting special notice and that, if such  
          information has not been given, postponing any relevant hearing.  
           The Council estimates that this new fee will result in nearly  
          $200,000 in new revenue for the courts.

          As amended, this bill is only one small piece of the Judicial  
          Council's efforts to increase funding for the courts.  The bill  
          originally contained many other provisions, including efforts to  
          limit audits of the judiciary, as well as redirect certain funds  
          from the counties to the courts.  Opposition to these provisions  
          has been raised by labor organizations and the counties.  The  
          author and the sponsor are still attempting to resolve some of  
          the concerns, especially with the counties.  Given the potential  
          controversies that may arise in conjunction with some of the  
          proposals, the sponsor has agreed not to add any provision to  
          the bill without the Committee's approval and the author has  
          agreed to bring the bill back to this Committee should it be  
          amended, consistent with the Committee's rules.  

           This Bill Just One Part of the Judicial Council's Operational  
          Efficiencies, Cost Savings and Revenue Proposals  :  In December  
          2012, the Judicial Council voted to support 17 "operational  
          efficiencies, cost savings, and revenue generating proposals."   
          Only six of those proposals had been included in this bill,  
          though the bill, as amended, now includes only one of those  
          proposals.  The Governor is proposing to implement the remaining  
          11 proposals as part of the budget process.  These include  
          proposals to:

             1.   Make it easier to collect court-ordered debt by making  








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               it easier to use the Franchise Tax Board and State  
               Controller's Office intercept programs.
             2.   Stop destroying marijuana arrest, charge and conviction  
               records.
             3.   Limit preliminary hearing transcripts that must be  
               provided to attorneys from all felony cases to just  
               homicide cases.
             4.   Limit reimbursement required of parents for  
               court-appointed dependency counsel.
             5.   Increase, from $20 to $50, the fee for exemplification  
               of a record.
             6.   Increase, from $0.50 a page to $1.00 a page, the cost  
               for copies of court records.
             7.   Charge a new $10 fee for each file name search  
               requested, except to a party requesting a copy of his or  
               her case file.
             8.   Increase the fee for mailing claims in small claims  
               cases from $10 to $15.
             9.   Charge an administrative fee for a request for a  
               deferral of entry of judgment, up to $500 for felonies and  
               $300 for misdemeanors.
             10.Impose a $10 administrative assessment for every  
               conviction under the Vehicle Code, not just subsequent  
               convictions.
             11.Limit trials by written declaration for infractions under  
               the Vehicle Code.

          On April 3, 2013, the Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 5 on  
          Public Safety voted to approve just three of those proposals -  
          items 1, 5 and 8.  It is possible that additional provisions  
          could be added during the budget process.
          
           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :

           Support 
           
          Judicial Council (sponsor)

           Opposition 
           
          None on file
           
          Analysis Prepared by  :  Leora Gershenzon / JUD. / (916) 319-2334 










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