Probate study committee bill hoping for governor’s approval

Supporters were successful this year in getting the Statehouse to approve legislation that re-establishes the Probate Code Study Commission, but they’re still awaiting the governor’s signature.

Jeffrey Kolb, partner at Kolb Roellgen & Kirchoff LLP and longtime member of the former probate commission, is uncertain what Gov. Mike Pence will do about Senate Enrolled Act 31. He noted originally, the commission was axed in 2014 as a money-saving maneuver and the bill could be in trouble if the commission is still viewed as a budget buster.

Authored by Sen. Joe Zakas, R-Granger, SEA 31 brings back the probate group as a subcommittee of the Courts and the Judiciary Interim Study Commission. Its purpose, as defined in the bill, is to study and recommend to the Courts and the Judiciary Commission changes that are needed in the probate code, trust code and other statutes regarding guardianships, probate jurisdiction, trusts or fiduciaries.

The measure also gives the legislative council the power to decide whether lay members should be appointed to the subcommittee. Previously, the probate group was comprised of legislators who were very knowledgeable about probate matters as well as probate lawyers from around the state. Kolb described it as a “wonderful gathering of talent and ability” whose members had a great deal of understanding in this area of the law.

The bill had minimal opposition, passing through both the House of Representatives and Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan margin.

If the bill gets signed into law, supporters will have to wait and see how the new probate subcommittee operates, Kolb said. He is hopeful the new group will work like the former probate commission which vetted bills, made them better and provided a pathway for them to get introduced into the Legislature.

Still, Kolb said, “a probate code study commission in whatever format is better than no probate code study commission.”



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