400. (a) The Controller shall appoint at least one person in each
county to act as a probate referee for the county.
(b) If there are fewer than three qualified applicants to serve in
a county, the Controller may designate a probate referee from
another county or make an interim appointment, to serve until the
vacancy has been filled by a qualified applicant.
401. (a) Appointment shall be from among persons passing a
qualification examination. A person who passes the examination is
eligible for appointment for a period of five years from the date of
(b) Appointment shall be on the basis of merit without regard to
sex, race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, marital
status, or political affiliation.
402. (a) The qualification examination for applicants for
appointment to act as a probate referee shall be held at times and
places within the state determined by the Controller.
(b) The Controller may contract with another agency to administer
the qualification examination. Administration of the examination
(1) Development of standards for passage of the examination.
(2) Preparation of examination questions.
(3) Giving the examination.
(4) Scoring the examination.
(c) Each applicant shall pay a fee for taking the qualification
examination. The agency administering the examination shall transmit
to the Controller a list of candidates who have received a passing
score in the examination. The list is a public record.
403. (a) The term of office of a probate referee is four years,
expiring June 30. A person may be appointed to complete the unexpired
term of office of a probate referee whose appointment is revoked or
is otherwise terminated. For a period of five years from the date of
expiration of the term of office, a person who had been appointed to
act as a probate referee is eligible for reappointment.
(b) If the Controller increases the number of probate referees in
a county, the Controller shall stagger the terms of the new
appointees so that one-quarter, or as close to one-quarter as
possible, of the terms of the probate referees in that county expire
on June 30 of each succeeding year.
404. (a) The Controller shall establish and may amend standards of
training, performance, and ethics of probate referees. The standards
are a public record.
(b) The Controller may revoke the appointment of a person to act
as a probate referee for noncompliance with any standard of training,
performance, or ethics established under subdivision (a). The
Controller may revoke an appointment under this subdivision without
notice or a hearing, but the revocation is subject to review by writ
of mandate in a court of competent jurisdiction.
405. Notwithstanding Section 404, the Controller may, at the
Controller's pleasure, revoke the appointment of a person to act as a
probate referee. Under this section, the Controller may revoke the
appointment of not more than 10 percent of the probate referees in
each county in any one calendar year, but may revoke the appointment
of at least one probate referee in each county in any one calendar
406. (a) The authority of a person to act as a probate referee
ceases immediately upon expiration of the person's term of office,
revocation of the person's appointment, or other termination pursuant
(b) Upon cessation of authority of a person to act as a probate
referee, the Controller shall notify the superior court of the county
for which the probate referee was appointed. Upon receipt of notice,
or if it otherwise comes to the attention of the court that the
authority of a person to act as a probate referee has ceased, the
court shall reassign any estate for which the person had been
designated as probate referee to another probate referee.
407. (a) As used in this section, "prohibited political activity"
means directly or indirectly soliciting, receiving, or contributing,
or being in any manner involved in soliciting, receiving, or
contributing, any of the following:
(1) An assessment, subscription, or contribution to any party,
incumbent, committee, or candidate exceeding two hundred dollars
($200) in any one calendar year for any partisan public office of
(2) An assessment, subscription, contribution, or political
service in any amount for any campaign for the office of Controller.
(b) Upon a person's appointment and thereafter in January of each
year during the person's tenure as a probate referee, the person
shall file with the Controller a verified statement indicating
whether the person has engaged in prohibited political activity
during the preceding two calendar years.
(c) The Controller may not appoint or reappoint as a probate
referee a person who within the preceding two calendar years has
engaged in prohibited political activity, and any such appointment or
reappointment is void and shall be revoked. The Controller shall
revoke the appointment of a person who, during the person's tenure as
a probate referee, engages in prohibited political activity.
However, all acts not otherwise invalid, performed by the person
before revocation of the person's appointment, are valid.
(d) A person shall not engage in prohibited political activity
during the time the person is an applicant for appointment or
reappointment, or during the person's tenure as a probate referee. A
violation of this subdivision is a misdemeanor.
(e) Subdivisions (a), (c), and (d) do not apply to any prohibited
political activity that occurred before July 1, 1989, and the
applicable law in effect before July 1, 1989, continues to apply.
Subdivision (b) applies on July 1, 1989, to persons who apply for
appointment on or after July 1, 1989. A person who applied for
appointment or who was appointed before July 1, 1989, shall file the
first statement required by subdivision (b) on or before July 1,
1989, and thereafter as prescribed in subdivision (b).
408. The appointment of a probate referee by the Controller before
July 1, 1989, is not invalidated by the repeal of the law under which
the appointment was made. Appointment of a probate referee before
July 1, 1989, may be revoked under this chapter only if revocation
would otherwise be proper under this chapter.