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Probate Court History
A Brief History of Connecticut's Probate Court System

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In the earliest days of the Connecticut colony, two courts handled probate matters: Particular Courts (the original trial courts) or the General Court (the General Assembly, which performed nearly all government functions at the time). In 1666, the colony was divided into the counties of Hartford, Fairfield, New Haven, and New London. Four county courts were created to probate wills and to settle and distribute estates of deceased persons. The county courts were reorganized in 1698. In each county, a forum was established, consisting of the county court judge and two justices, for the probate of wills and the appointment of guardians.

In 1716, an act was passed establishing official courts of probate in the four counties, and one judge and clerk were appointed to serve in each court for a period of one year. Since 1850, probate judges have been elected by the voters of the town comprising the respective probate districts.

All 117 probate judges are members of the Connecticut Probate Assembly, which began as an informal organization of probate judges in 1883. The Assembly met quarterly, and the members were often joined by their state representatives and senators, and sometimes even the Governor. The informal organization won official recognition with the passage of legislation in 1941.

The probate courts are statutory courts, and, as such, have only the jurisdiction and authority granted by the state legislature. As has been the case since the earliest days of the colony, probate court decisions may be appealed to another court. The route of appeal for current matters begins with the Superior Court; further appeal may be made to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

 

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