Category Archives: Probate

A discussion of laws and issues in Connecticut Probate Courts.

Social Security Numbers Of Dead Persons Are Available Online

Find them for free on the Social Security Death Index.

Tomorrow is Ted Williams’ birthday. If living, he’d be turning 93. His social security number is 565-03-1343.

In today’s world people rightfully go to great lengths to ensure the confidentiality of social security numbers which is why it’s so shocking to see them available at the click of a mouse.

Why Parents Need Wills

If you love and care about your children, you’ll do a will. If you don’t love them, feel free to play roulette with their lives and the lives of your well intentioned family members.

It doesn’t matter that you don’t have much if any money. If you have children, you have a reason to do a will.

You and your spouse can die together. There are plenty of opportunities for this to happen. Usually it doesn’t happen but sometimes a car gets hit head on by an 18 wheeler.

If you and your spouse die, your kids, aside from being devastated will be placed in legal limbo. Legal limbo means some complete stranger will decide who gets to raise your kids.

I’ve met a lot of judges.  All of the judges that I’ve met work diligently to “get it” right. But no matter how hard a judge works, she can’t possibly know everything you do about your relatives.

Most of the harm will be done by family members who think they’re acting in the child’s best interest. This may or may not involve your living relatives spending large sums of money to bitterly fight with each other in court.

And if anyone senses that there may be money involved….watch out. Right now, everybody fights over every small amount of money. If the last words you read are “MACK” your estates may have a potentially significant wrongful death claim.  Relatives who didn’t care about your children when you were living will suddenly want to parent them.

My point is that you need to decide who will take care of your children in the event something happens to you. You. Not a judge. Not your Aunt. You.

Telling someone who you want to care for you children doesn’t count. Doing a will does.

Naming a guardian is perhaps the last and best gift that you could give to your children and family members.

Love your children enough to name a guardian for them.

Manchester Shootings Serve As A Reminder That Our Probate Courts Need Enhanced Security

by Ryan McKeen

Connecticut Probate Courts lack security. In every court I’ve been in, there’s no security guard. No metal detectors. Nothing.

Every other court in the state requires anyone entering to pass through a metal detector, have his or her bags screened and there is usually at least one marshall present in court at all times.

I have yet to be in a probate court that had any kind of security in place.

Probate courts handle some very emotional and difficult issues including the termination of parental rights, estates, and conservatorships.

Our legislature should do something about the lack of security in Connecticut’s Probate Courts before something horrible happens.  As our courts are consolidated next year, the Legislature should properly fund adequate security for our probate courts.

Do Attorneys Charge More Than Legal Zoom For Wills?

by Ryan McKeen

I’m a longtime Sirius Satellite radio subscriber. This alone qualifies me as an expert on Legal Zoom ads. For those who don’t subscribe to satellite radio – let me fill you in: Legal Zoom advertises non-stop on satellite radio.

Every time, I hear one of the legal zoom ads about wills I think that I’m a fool. The ads drive home the point that there are lawyers out there who are able to fund their kids college education by doing three or four simple wills per year.

I have no idea what legal zoom charges for wills and I really don’t care.

What I do know from listening to those ads is that I’m a fool for charging what I charge for wills.

The truth is Legal Zoom probably makes a boatload of money from convincing the public that I make a boatload of money from writing wills.

If you’re looking to do a will I encourage you to contact a local attorney who does wills.  I don’t fear competition from legal zoom one bit because I know I can offer my clients an excellent service at a competitive price.

Oh and one last thing, does anyone know the Connecticut attorney who was too busy to write wills for his family and his wife contacted legal zoom? Does that person exist? I have my doubts.

CT State Senate Approves Probate Court Reform Bill

by Ryan McKeen

The Senate last night approved a bill that cuts the current 117 probate court districts by more than half. It also imposes regular schedules in those courts and requires future probate judges to be attorneys. Conn Politics.TV

You can read the text of the bill here.

My question is where is the state going to put these courts?

I’ve been to dozens of probate courts throughout the state. Many of them are tucked in cramped offices in the basements of local town halls.  Very small spaces.

It’s certainly possible for small towns to share a court. For example East Granby and Suffield already do.

I agree that Connecticut has too many probate courts. Mostly in small towns in the eastern and western parts of the state and consolidation is a good idea.

But I suspect that the logistics of implementing this bill will prove to be challenging to say the least.

On CT Probate Court Reform and Taxing Legal Services

By Ryan McKeen

I love those new light bulbs, you know, the spiral kind.  Their packaging tells me that I can save $120 a year or something if I replace my old fashioned light bulbs. Having changed out my bulbs – they’re not kidding, I do save money on my monthly electric bill.

The problem is to save that money, I must first spend money on new bulbs.  If I didn’t have any money, I’d be stuck with my old bulbs which would cost me more money each month and I’d be poorer because of it.

Cool New Light Bulb

Cool New Light Bulb

The Hartford Courant does near weekly articles on how much our probate courts cost and how they’re nearly bankrupt.

One of the reasons probate courts operate at a deficit is conservatorships. If a person doesn’t have money the court appoints an attorney for the proposed conserved person and pays that attorney at a rate of $50 an hour. If the person is conserved, the court also pays a conservator $50 an hour to manage that person’s affairs.

One of the most effective ways to prevent a conservatorship proceeding is to execute a living will and power of attorney.  People often end up conserved because for one reason or another they fail to do any advanced planning.

Sometimes perceived cost is a reason people don’t see an attorney to do a living will or a power of attorney. 

Consequently, our state pays more for conservatorships because people don’t do advanced planning.

It’s like we’re running our state on old light bulbs. 

What the legislature should consider is a tax credit on legal fees for people who do some advanced planning. 

What the legislature is doing is considering a tax on legal services and raising the attorney occupational tax – both of which will result in a higher cost of legal services for residents of Connecticut.

Raising the cost of legal services for the middle class is about as short sighted as the state deciding to raise taxes on those cool new light bulbs.

Gov. Rell’s Plan For Probate Court Consolidation

by Ryan McKeen

It’s also time for reform of our probate court system. Our system is antiquated and broken. I am proposing an overhaul that will reduce the number of courts, improve services and increase the hours of operation. It will also save money. Gov. Rell, 2/4/09

Here is the link to Governor’s Bill No. 6385 “An Act Concerning Reform of the Probate Court System.”

The bill, if passed, would result in a number of significant changes to Connecticut’s Probate Court System.

M. Jodi Rell

M. Jodi Rell

First, each judge of probate elected for a term that begins on or after January 5, 2011shall be a member of the Connecticut State Bar for not less than 10 years. I don’t think it’s that controversial that in 2009 we should expect our judges to have been seasoned attorneys. Of course, in the politics of probate court refrom, it seems everything is controversial.

Second, the bill calls for a consolidation of Connecticut’s probate courts from the 117 courts that we currently have to 36 probate courts by January 1, 2011.

The 36 new courts will correspond to the boundaries of state senatorial districts.

Judges will be elected. Governor Rell estimates that her plan will save the State 9 million dollars per year.

Here are my questions:

1. Will new facilities have to be built to house these consolidated courts? Most existing probate courts occupy small spaces in town halls. This would leave the probate courts with either building new facilities or having judges “ride the circuit.”

2. Will running for probate court judge require a candidate to campaign across a senatorial district? Running for State Senate is a lot of work as districts are large. In 2008, state senate candidates received $125,000 in public financing. Will probate judges be able to access public funds for a campaign?

Also, will the State dedicate enough resources to effectively implement consolidation. The consolidation of small claims courts has been an epic failure to this point. Connecticut can’t afford the same to happen to its probate courts.

If nothing else, the public hearings on probate court reform will be must see TV.

Presumption of Death in CT

Any person who has been absent from his home and unheard of for a period of seven or more years shall be presumed to be dead……Conn.Gen. Stat. Sec. 45a-329

This statute exists to prevent property from going to waste.

So if you are going on a long vacation, make sure to email, write, or phone home every six years or so.

I hope to be back with a full entry on Friday.

Around the Links: On Blogs, Angels and Lemons.

Between my annual battle with leaves, late nights watching the Red Sox, and early morning hearings, I’ve fallen a bit behind in my blogging.

Right now there’s no more late nights watching the Red Sox. In a few weeks, I’ll be dealing with snow instead of leaves and I’ll always have to deal with court hearings.

There are some great law blogs in Connecticut. I enjoy reading the work of my fellow bloggers because I learn from them not only about the law but about blogging.

Anyway, here’s some of what I’ve been reading over the past few days:

Daniel Schwartz of Connecticut Employment Law Blog has a great post about how inappropriate conduct on social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook and blogs can result in discipline and even termination at work.

Gideon at a public defender wonders just how long same-sex marriage in Connecticut will last. Perhaps having read Daniel Schwartz’s post, Gideon is careful to note that his posts are his views only and not the views of his employer.

Matt Curtiss discusses how angels (not the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim kind) can help you after your death.

Sergei Lemberg at Lemon Justice shows me where I can find car safety statistics online.

Angel fans (the Los Angeles of Anaheim kind) at Halos Heaven call me a jerk. Scroll about 5/8ths of the way down the page and look for a  pink quote box from someone who goes by the name of Lady Bug to see why.

I got my first ever blog review. Check out  Megan Hates Mr. Miller. Evidently, Mr. Miller is an English teacher who likes baseball and law and Megan is his student. It’s great that the class is reading and keeping blogs. Thank you Mr. Miller and kudos to Megan on her blog.

World Series prediction (for entertainment purposes only): Rays in 4. Go Rays. They are a great team and fun to watch when they are not playing the Red Sox.