Last year, the Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation that revamped our state’s probate court system. The changes will take effect on Jan. 5, 2011, which also begins a new term of office for probate judges. The most important change in the system involves the consolidation of probate court districts from the current level of 117 districts to 54 districts. District number 24 will be known as the Litchfield Hills Probate District and will be comprised of the Towns of Canaan, Cornwall, Harwinton, Kent, Litchfield (which includes Northfield), Morris, Norfolk, North Canaan, Salisbury, Sharon, Thomaston and Warren. The court will be located in Litchfield with a satellite office in North Canaan.
Each district will have one probate judge who will be elected on Nov. 2, 2010. Any new candidate, or non-sitting judge, must be an attorney.
In 2009, 49 percent of probate services or matters involved decedent’ estates; 15 percent, conservators; 11 percent, children’s matters; 7 percent, trusts; 4 percent, issues involving people with developmental disabilities; 3 percent, commitments; 2 percent, adoptions and termination of parental rights; and 9 percent, other matters.
Currently, courts must be opened for at least 20 hours a week. The new legislation mandates that courts be open for at least 40 hours per week to accommodate the public and increase accessibility to these important services provided by the courts. Compensation for judges and staff will now be standardized and paid by the Probate Court Administration Fund. Judges will no longer be compensated based on the fees collected by the courts.
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PATRICK WALL: What Does Probate Reform Mean for Litchfield County?