The Greenwich Probate Court was constituted by the General Assembly on July 4, 1853 and has served the people of Greenwich since that time. Probate judges are elected by the voters of the Town for a four-year term. Our District covers only the Town of Greenwich. Judges may appoint one or more clerks or other employees to assist in the operation of the Court; their salaries are paid by the judge. Pursuant to §45a-8 of the Connecticut General Statutes, each town is required to provide a fire-resistant safe or vault for the storage of Court documents, office space, supplies for the Court and microfilming of Court records.
The jurisdiction of the Probate Court is established by the State Legislature. Major areas of Court jurisdiction include:
- Probating wills and the administration of estates
- Overseeing testamentary and living trusts
- Determining title to real and personal property
- Construing the meaning of wills and trusts
- Appointing guardians for the mentally retarded
- Appointing conservators of the person and the estate of incapable individuals
- Committing those suffering from mental illness, alcoholism, or drug addiction to an appropriate facility
- Removing unfit parents as guardians of their children
- Terminating the parental rights of parents who cannot fulfill their parental responsibilities
- Granting adoptions
- Granting name changes and other matters, many of which are extremely delicate and complex and some of which are confidential
By way of example, when one of our residents dies, the Probate Court oversees the division of his or her property among those legally entitled to such property. The division of his or her property will be carried out according to the person's wishes if the decedent has executed a will. If there is no will, the property will be divided according to certain laws known as the laws of intestacy. In addition to overseeing the distribution of the estate, the Court will ensure that any debts of the decedent, funeral expenses, and taxes are paid prior to the remaining assets of the estate being distributed. In the course of which proceedings, will contests and objections are not unknown.
There are 123 Probate Districts in the State of Connecticut. Each district functions with a single court, independent of the integrated State court system. Consequently, each court has developed its own unique characteristics. However, since the creation of the office of Probate Court Administrator in 1967, the publication of the Probate Practice Book, and the promulgation of the Rules for Practice and Procedure in the Probate Court by the State Supreme Court, more uniformity has been established. At the same time, this Court has retained a close informal relationship with our community. It is truly a "family court" as it deals with matters directly effecting the family and is easily accessible to all members of the public.
All records of the Probate Court are put on microfilm and maintained in our vault and frequently used by the title searcher, genealogists and various historical societies. The Court is current with respect to microfilming decedent's estates and trust estates. Funds to complete required microfilming are being provided by the Town pursuant to its obligations under Section §45a-8 C.G.S The files are filmed and put in compact books, and then the original files are sent to archives and stored.
Importantly, the court seeks to serve our citizens and to insure the efficient, speedy and economical handling of all personal and family matters within its jurisdiction; to provide the people of Greenwich a forum to petition for a fair, equitable and compassionate arbiter to lessen the impact of succession, inheritance and transfer of taxes in appropriate situations; and to provide its citizens with an intervenor against a state government and tax authority they often find too powerful and complex.