Changing Connecticut’s Probate Court System?

April 25, 2009

One of the longest standing institutions in our state is the probate court system. Dating back over three centuries, to the earliest days of Connecticut’s history, the probate court system has been in place to handle all matters pertaining to the administration of family wills and estates. What were once the responsibilities of the state’s trial courts and the General Assembly, probate courts were established throughout the state to deal specifically with matters of probate comprising of judges elected by voters in municipalities where the court was established. While the system has undergone some cosmetic changes over the years the main responsibilities of the state’s probate courts has remained constant.

Today there are 117 probate districts in Connecticut. Many towns have individual probate courts, while some of the state’s more rural communities share their courts. Because the current court system was created by state statute, any changes to the makeup or responsibilities of the courts can be made only by an act of the General Assembly.

Over the years, some of our state’s smaller towns have voluntarily consolidated their courts with neighboring communities because, unlike the larger municipalities, they have fewer cases brought before them. This does not mean however that all probate courts in smaller towns should be merged. That is why I voted against legislation this year that seeks to “reform” the state’s probate court system. It is my belief that matters of probate are local matters and that we should do everything in our power to keep them that way.

PA 09-114 established a Probate Redistricting Commission to develop a plan to consolidate the state’s probate court districts to deal with a projected shortfall in the Probate Court General Account. The commission is made up of 13 members appointed by the Governor and legislative leaders. Their redistricting plan must take into account a number of factors including the size and potential workload of the new district, geographic accessibility, availability of municipal facilities, and communities that may be interested in sharing a proposed district. The commission must report back to the legislature with a plan that reduces the number of probate courts in Connecticut from its current 117 to around 50. Such a reduction would surely affect many towns in eastern Connecticut that have smaller populations, while keeping in place the probate courts in the state’s cities and larger towns.

To find out more information regarding the charge of the Probate Redistricting Commission go to or contact me in Hartford at 1-800-842-1421.