By David M. S. Shaiken
Have you ever wondered how probate works in Connecticut? Here is a brief guide.
When someone who owns assets dies, an application to administer their estate in probate must be filed with the Probate Court within 30 days of their death. This applies whether or not they had a will. The person who dies is called a decedent.
The Probate Court will issue a Decree Granting Administration, which opens the estate and appoints someone to serve as the executor of the estate. Normally, the will specifies whom the decedent wanted to serve as executor, and normally that person files the application with the court and indicates his or her willingness to serve. In the absence of unusual circumstances, the court will appoint that person as executor.
If there is no will, then the court normally appoints the applicant as administrator of the estate, assuming the applicant has indicated a willingness to serve.
Executors and administrators are called fiduciaries.
The first order of business is for the fiduciary to take possession of all assets of the decedent. The fiduciary must obtain a taxpayer I.D. number from the IRS in order to transfer bank accounts and stocks into the estate’s name.
If the decedent owned real estate, then the fiduciary must record a notice on the land records in the town where the real estate is located. This is due within 2 months of the court’s appointment of the fiduciary.
The fiduciary must prepare an inventory of all of the real estate and other assets owned by the decedent, and file that with the court. The inventory is due within 2 months after the fiduciary was appointed by the court.
Within 14 days after appointment of the fiduciary, the Probate Court will publish a notice in a newspaper that notifies creditors to present their claims to the fiduciary for payment of the decedent’s debts. Claims will be due to the fiduciary within 150 days after appointment of the fiduciary. The fiduciary has 90 days after receipt of a claim to reject, allow or pay a claim. The fiduciary is not liable to a creditor who presents a claim after the deadline, for any assets that the fiduciary has paid or distributed in good faith before receipt of the claim to pay other claims, expenses, taxes or to a beneficiary.
A Connecticut estate tax return is due to the Probate Court within 6 months of the decedent’s death, whether or not the decedent had sufficient assets to incur a Connecticut estate tax. If an estate tax is owed, the tax return also must be filed with the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services The Probate Court determines the statutory fee that the estate must pay to the Probate Court based on the estate tax return.
The decree appointing the fiduciary sets forth a date by which the estate must be administered, usually 1 year from the date of death. Administration includes gathering assets, paying taxes (such as income taxes), distributing assets to heirs and beneficiaries, or selling them and distributing the proceeds, and paying or resolving creditors’ claims.
Once the estate has been administered, the fiduciary must file a financial report with the Probate Court. Sometimes the court requires a more formal statutory accounting. The report shows the court, heirs and beneficiaries the income received by the estate, the proceeds of the sale of assets, the expenses of the estate, the debts of the decedent that were paid, and the distribution of assets to heirs and beneficiaries. Upon approval of the report, the court issues a decree accepting the report and relieving the fiduciary of liability for all items contained in the report.
Some matters may require a hearing in the Probate Court. Heirs and beneficiaries have the option of waiving a hearing on certain matters.
For estates with an aggregate value of $40,000.00 or less, Connecticut has an abbreviated form of probate estate administration that requires the filing of only an affidavit in lieu of administration. The court will then issue a decree specifying the payment of creditors’ claims, taxes, expenses and the distributions to heirs and beneficiaries.
Shipman, Shaiken & Schwefel, LLC is experienced in probate cases, representing fiduciaries, heirs and beneficiaries. For assistance with your estate administration or probate litigation needs, please call David Shaiken at 860-606-1703, or email him at email@example.com.