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AGO 1951 No. 056 - May 28, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

COURTS:  SUPERIOR COURT CLERKS' FILING FEES.

(1) County clerks to collect $6.00 fee under exactly the same conditions and for exactly the same fees as they have been previously collecting the $5.00 fee.

(2) The intent of section 39, chapter 139, Laws of 1951, was not to require any filing fee whatever in cases arising under chapter 139, Laws of 1951, but was simply a directive as the proper method of handling an involuntary hospitalization case.

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                                                                   May 28, 1951

Honorable Reuben C. Youngquist
Prosecuting Attorney, Skagit County
Mount Vernon, Washington                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 56

Attention:  Mr. Charles F. Stafford, Jr., Deputy

Dear Sir:

            We have received your letter of May 18, 1951, in which you ask the following questions:

            1. What filings should pay the six dollar fee required by section 5, chapter 51, Laws of 1951, in connection with the filing of a final account in the settlement of the decedent's estate?

            2. Does the sentence "applications for involuntary hospitalization should be handled as a probate matter" found in section 39, chapter 139, Laws of 1951, make such applications probate matters so that the six dollar fee for filing, as provided in section 5, chapter 51, Laws of 1951, be required?

            The conclusions reached may be summarized as follows:

            1. Since section 5, chapter 51, Laws of 1951, simply changes the filing fee from five dollars, as provided by section 1, chapter 56, Laws of 1907, county clerks should collect the six dollar fee under exactly the same conditions and for exactly the same filings as they have been previously collecting the five dollar fee.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] p            2. The intent of section 39, chapter 139, Laws of 1951, was not to require any filing fee whatever in cases arising under chapter 139, Laws of 1951, but was simply a directive as the proper method of handling an involuntary hospitalization case.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 5, chapter 51, Laws of 1951 (36.18.020, RCW) provides, in part:

            "In probate proceedings, * * * upon the filing of a final account in the settlement of the decedent's estate, there shall be paid a fee of six dollars; * * *"

            In so far as the collection of a five dollar fee for the filing of the "final account," the law has been unchanged since the passage of chapter 56, Laws of 1907.  The portion of that law applicable to clerks of the superior courts (497, Rem. Rev. Stat.) reads, in part:

            "Upon the filing of a final account in the settlement of the decedent's possessive estate, there shall be paid a fee of $5."

            The codifiers of RCW originally codified section 497, Rem. Rev. Stat. as 36.10.02, RCW [[RCW 36.18.020)]], and carried the same provision in the following language:

            "The clerk shall also collect:

            "Five dollars for filing the final account in the settlement of a decedent's estate; * * *"

            It can therefore readily be seen that the only change made by chapter 51,supra, as to the above provision is to change the fee from "five" to "six" dollars.

            The Probate Code (ch. 156, L. 1917) contains section 161 (15.31, Rem. Rev. Stat.; 11.76.030, RCW [[RCW 11.76.030)]]), reading, in part:

            "When the estate is ready to be closed, the executor or administrator shall make, verify, and file with the court his final report and petition for distribution."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            The above last quoted portion of the probate code must be that portion to which the filing fee of five dollars, as formerly, and six dollars, under chapter 51,supra, is applicable.  While the probate code refers to the document as "final report and petition for distribution" and the filing fee is applicable to a "final account in the settlement of the decedent's estate" they must both refer to the same thing.

            It would seem, therefore, that the various county clerks should have no real difficulty in properly construing the above quoted provision from chapter 51,supra.  They should collect the six dollar fee under exactly the same conditions and for exactly the same filings as they have been collecting the five dollar fee, that is, any filing that they considered was entitled to pay the five dollars they should, under the new law, require the payment of a six dollar fee.  They should not extend the application of the six dollar filing fee to more or other filings than those for which they have been collecting the five dollar fee in the past.

            You also call our attention to section 39, chapter 139, Laws of 1951 (The Mental Illness Hospitalization Act), which reads:  "Applications for involuntary hospitalization should be handled as a probate matter."

            You ask whether the filing fee of six dollars required by section 5, chapter 51, Laws of 1951, should be collected upon the filing of a first paper in an involuntary hospitalization matter.

            We cannot believe that it was the intent of the legislature that any filing fee should be collected in cases arising under chapter 139, supra.  We believe that the intent of the above quotation from section 39 is simply a directive as to the proper method of handling an involuntary hospitalization case as a probate matter rather than as a criminal case or as an ordinary civil case.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

GEORGE DOWNER
Assistant Attorney General

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