August 17, 1998 98-R-0954
FROM: George Coppolo, Chief Attorney
RE: Simplified Probate Court Proceedings
You asked whether Connecticut has a simplified probate court procedure.
Connecticut has a simplified and expedited probate process for settling small decedent's estates. The entire process can be completed within 30 days, instead of six months or longer as is normally required for the regular probate process. Further, the expedited process only requires the filing of one piece of paper (plus a tax return) instead of up to ten or more documents required in a regular probate process.
To qualify for the simplified process, the surviving spouse, next of kin, or other interested party files an affidavit stating that the deceased owned certain kinds of property, the total value of which does not exceed $20,000. The statutes include the following kinds of property in this calculation: bank deposits, equity shares in savings and loan associations or credit unions doing business in Connecticut, corporate stocks or bonds, any unpaid wages from a Connecticut employer, life insurance or death benefits due under a policy without a named beneficiary, other personal property (tangible or intangible), and any unreleased interest in a mortgage.
Once the affidavit has been filed, the probate court issues a decree authorizing the person holding the property to transfer the amount to those legally entitled to it. If there are any claims against the state they must be paid in the following order specified by state law:
1. funeral expenses and expenses to settle the estate;
2. debts due for the decedent's last sickness;
3. all state and federal taxes and debts;
4. all debts due any worker for labor performed within the three months immediately before the decedents death;
5. other preferred claims; and
6. all other debts (CGS § 45a-392).
If the petition indicates in the affidavit that the decedent received public assistance or institutional care from the state, the court may not issue the decree until 30 days after it notifies the Department of Administrative Services.
EXPEDITED PROCEDURES WHERE DECEDENT LEFT A WILL
The general statutes contain rules that probate courts must follow in connection with these expedited procedures when the decedent has a valid will. Specifically, if the distribution under the will is the same as under the law of intestate succession, the court must order the estate distributed in that way. (The law of intestate succession refers to statutory rules that specify who is entitled to the property of a person who dies without a will.) If the distribution under the will differs from the distribution under the laws of interest succession and the legal heirs of the decedent waive their right to contest the will in writing, the court must order the estate distributed in accordance with the will after taxes and creditors have been paid.
If the legal heirs do not waive their right to contest the will, the court can proceed under the expedited procedures only if the people entitled to distribution under the will consent in writing to the distribution of the estate's assets in accordance with the laws of interstate succession. If the people entitled to distribution do not waive their rights under the will, it must be submitted to probate court for normal probate proceedings and the estate cannot be handled by the expedited procedures.