PA 16-7—sSB 219

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING PROBATE COURT OPERATIONS

SUMMARY: This act makes various substantive, minor, and technical changes in probate statutes. Among other things, it:

1. establishes a process for a probate court that finds it does not have jurisdiction to hear a matter to transfer the matter to another probate court, if that court has jurisdiction, without requiring an additional filing fee ( 1);

2. allows a person under voluntary conservatorship who is not represented by an attorney to waive certain rights if a hearing determines that the waiver represents the person's wishes ( 3);

3. expands the list of probate matters subject to the general $225 filing fee ( 4);

4. increases the number of probate court locations in which individuals may file petitions to remove a parent as guardian or to terminate parental rights ( 6 & 7); and

5. adds to the type of entities that may serve as conservators ( 8).

The act also makes minor or clarifying changes concerning out-of-state wills ( 2), visitation rights related to certain proceedings ( 5), and periodic accounts ( 9 & 10).

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2016

1 — TRANSFER TO OTHER PROBATE COURTS

Under the act, if a probate court finds, after notice and hearing on any petition, application, or motion that it lacks jurisdiction over the matter but another probate court in the state has jurisdiction, the court may (1) order that the file be transferred to the court with jurisdiction or (2) dismiss the matter for lack of jurisdiction. If multiple courts have jurisdiction, the transferring court may transfer the matter to the court that it finds most convenient for the parties.

The act requires the transferring court to make written findings on its determination that the transferee court has jurisdiction and, if applicable, which court is most convenient. These findings are conclusive for all further proceedings, except the transfer order is subject to appeal under the general rules for probate appeals.

The transferring court must deliver certified copies of all related documents in its file to the transferee court after issuing the transfer order. The transferee court must proceed on the matter as if it had originally been filed with that court and may not charge an additional filing fee.

The act specifies that these provisions do not prevent a court with jurisdiction over a case from transferring the case to another court under a statute authorizing such a transfer.

2 — OUT-OF-STATE WILLS

By law, if an out-of-state will conveys property in Connecticut, the executor or another interested person may present an authenticated copy of the will and record of the related proceedings to a Connecticut probate court, requesting that these documents be filed and recorded. The court must grant the request if there is not sufficient objection after a hearing and the documents then have the same effect as if they were originally proved in this state. The act eliminates the requirement that the revenue services commissioner receive notice of the hearing.

3 — VOLUNTARY REPRESENTATION AND HEARING WAIVER

By law, a person under conservatorship may waive the right to certain required hearings if his or her attorney consults with the person and files with the court a record of the waiver. The waiver must represent the person's wishes.

The act similarly allows such a waiver for a person under voluntary conservatorship who does not have an attorney. The court must hold a hearing to determine whether the waiver represents the person's wishes.

Under existing law and the act, this applies to hearings that are generally required before a conservator may change a conserved person's residence (including placing the person in a long-term care institution), terminate the person's tenancy or lease, or sell or dispose of the person's property.

4 — PROBATE FEES

PA 15-5, June Special Session, raised the general filing fee for most probate matters, other than estate settlement, from $150 to $225 and specified the matters to which the fee applies. The act subjects additional filings to the $225 fee, as shown in Table 1. It also makes minor and technical changes.

Table 1: Additional Probate Filings Subject to $225 Fee under the Act

Action

With respect to a minor:

Approve placement of a child for adoption outside Connecticut

Review, modify, or enforce a cooperative post-adoption agreement

Review an order concerning contact between an adopted child and his or her siblings

Determine whether the termination of voluntary services provided by the Department of Children and Families complies with applicable regulations

Resolve a dispute on custodianship under the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act

With respect to a conservatorship:

Determine whether informed consent was given for voluntary admission to a hospital for psychiatric disabilities

Excuse accounts under the Probate Court Rules of Procedure

With respect to an elderly person:

Authorize the social services commissioner to enter the person's premises to determine whether he or she needs protective services

With respect to an adult with intellectual disability:

Determine competency to vote

With respect to a testamentary or inter vivos trust:

Excuse a final account under the Probate Court Rules of Procedure

5 — VISITATION OF MINORS

Under certain conditions, existing law allows a probate court to grant visitation rights to (1) anyone who has been removed as guardian of a minor, (2) any relative of the minor, or (3) any parent who has been denied temporary custody pending a hearing on removal or termination of parental rights. The act specifies that the last provision similarly applies to guardians if temporary custody was granted to someone else pending a hearing. It also (1) specifies that the court's authority to grant visitation rights additionally applies in connection with proceedings to appoint or remove a guardian and (2) makes technical and clarifying changes.

6 & 7 — VENUE FOR PETITIONS TO REMOVE A PARENT AS GUARDIAN OR TERMINATE PARENTAL RIGHTS

Under prior law, (1) petitions to remove one or both parents as a minor's guardian had to be brought in the probate district where the minor resides and (2) petitions to terminate parental rights had to be brought in the district where the minor or petitioner resides or, if the child is under guardianship of a child care facility or child-placing agency, in the district where an agency office is located.

The act allows such petitions to also be brought in the district where the minor is domiciled or is located when the petition is filed.

8 — ENTITIES SERVING AS CONSERVATORS

The act expands the types of entities that may serve as a conservator of the estate or conservator of the person by generally allowing for-profit or nonprofit limited liability companies, partnerships, or other entities recognized under state law to serve in these roles. Existing law already allows for-profit or nonprofit corporations to serve as conservators.

Existing law, unchanged by the act, prohibits (1) hospitals or nursing home facilities from serving as either type of conservator and (2) residential care homes from serving as a conservator of the estate.

9 & 10 — PERIODIC AND FINAL ACCOUNTS

Existing law generally requires conservators, guardians, and trustees to provide periodic accounts of their trusts to the probate court at least once every three years and more frequently if required by the will or trust instrument creating the trust. The act:

1. eliminates an obsolete reference to persons other than conservators or guardians appointed by the court to sell minors' land;

2. conforms to existing practice by specifying that the court may also require more frequent accounting;

3. eliminates specific references to submission of periodic accounts for filing only during the three-year period and related procedures upon this filing; and

4. eliminates the requirement that the account include an inventory of the trust estate. (The Probate Court Rules of Procedure specify what must be included in a periodic account. )

The act also eliminates a requirement that the probate court hold a hearing when a trustee in insolvency provides his or her final account to the court. It retains this requirement for conservators, guardians, and trustees of a testamentary trust.

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