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.