When a case like the Josephine Smoron estate hijacking still lingers in the Connecticut legal system, terming the state’s probate reforms to be “working” seems a bit overstated.
Connecticut’s probate courts can trace their history to the 1630s, and until a couple of years ago were still clinging to many of the efficiencies of the 17th century. That, fortunately, has changed.
Reform legislation passed in 2009 and implemented after a year of planning has changed a highly local, cumbersome, nearly bankrupt system into one that is regional, efficient, more professional and less expensive.
The most noticeable change is the number of courts, which dropped from 117 (there had once been as many as 133) to 54. With fewer courts, the system is able to save $3.7 million a year, a third more than was originally expected. Since the new courts are open 40 hours a week — in the past some of the smaller courts were open for fewer hours — the loss of accessibility is minimized.
The reforms have included centralized financial operations, improved information technology, a uniform compensation and benefits package for court employees, and judges’ salaries based on population and workload instead of the wealth of the district. Going forward, all new probate judges must be lawyers, not a requirement in the past. At present all but three of the 54 judges, who were serving before the change, are lawyers.
Probate Reforms Are Working
Fewer Courts: Restructuring of the probate system is improving the product
January 18, 2013