Probate FAQ’s

CT Probate FAQ’s

Who can serve as an executor or administrator of a CT estate?

Anyone can be an executor or administrator: a member of the decedent’s family, a beneficiary of a Will, an attorney or a bank. An executor is named in the Will and chosen by the person making the Will. If there is no Will, the court will select an administrator. The law requires the court to appoint a family member, unless it appears that it would not be in the best interests of the parties concerned, in which case the court Will usually appoint an impartial person or a bank.

 Is it necessary to have a lawyer to probate an estate in CT?

While not required, it is often advisable for the executor or administrator to consider seeking professional assistance in connection with settling an estate, particularly when preparing tax returns, dealing with substantial or unusual assets or in the event of a dispute among the parties. Probate Court clerks may provide forms and limited assistance with procedural questions but may not give legal advice. The executor or administrator is responsible for completing the necessary forms and taking the other steps necessary to settle the estate.

 What are the costs involved in settling a decedent’s estate?

Upon the death of any person, some or all of the following costs may be payable to settle the decedent’s affairs: funeral expenses, expenses incurred by the executor or administrator in administering the estate, Probate Court fees, fees of an executor or administrator, attorney’s fees, municipal, state and federal taxes and the decedent’s debts.

Probate fees and taxes are fixed by law. (See Questions 17 through 19.) The fees of an executor or administrator and of an attorney are based on the work performed and subject to the approval of the Probate Court. Often, members of the family are willing to serve for little or no compensation.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”4. When is it necessary to open an estate in CT?”]

An estate must be opened if a decedent owned property at the time of death in his or her name alone. It is also necessary to open an estate if the decedent owned assets with others, but the assets were not titled in survivorship. (See Question 5 below.) A court order is required to transfer this type of property from the decedent’s name to heirs or beneficiaries.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”5. What does “in survivorship” mean and must survivorship property be reported to the Probate Court?”]

The placing of a savings account, shares of corporate stock, bonds or real estate “in survivorship” with another means that each of the named parties has an undivided interest in the asset. Upon the death of a joint owner, his or her interest automatically passes to the surviving joint owner(s). Survivorship property is not included in the probate estate, but it must be reported on the Connecticut estate tax return required to be filed with the Probate Court. (See Question 17.)

Note: Under the provisions of C.G.S. section 14-16, the owner of a motor vehicle can designate a beneficiary on the registration certificate. To obtain ownership of the vehicle after the owner’s death, the beneficiary must make application to the Department of Motor Vehicles within 60 days of the date of death.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”6. Is there a simple method to probate a small estate in Connecticut?”]

Yes. If the total assets left by a decedent in his or her name alone do not exceed

$40,000 and do not include real estate, a simpler small estate procedure can be used. The decedent may own survivorship assets exceeding $40,000 in value and still qualify for this simple procedure. This process is effective for transferring assets, such as bank accounts, shares of corporate stock, bonds, unpaid wages, death benefits, insurance proceeds or motor vehicles.

To use the small estate procedure, the surviving spouse, next of kin or other person files an “Affidavit in Lieu of Probate of Will/Administration,” form PC-212, listing the decedent’s solely owned assets, funeral expenses, expenses associated with settling the estate, taxes and the decedent’s debts. Thereafter, the judge will authorize the transfer of assets to reimburse the person who paid the expenses and debts or, if the assets are needed to pay outstanding expenses or debts, directly to the person(s) entitled to payment. A Connecticut estate tax return is also required for a small estate.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”7. What are my responsibilities if I have a decedent’s original Will?”]

A person in possession of a decedent’s Will must deliver it to the Probate Court where the decedent lived within 30 days after the decedent’s death. There may be criminal penalties for failing to produce a Will. Ordinarily, the person filing the Will also files the “Petition/Administration or Probate of Will,” form PC-200, with the court at the same time. However, if the decedent left no assets in his or her name that would pass under the Will, the Will is simply placed on file and not admitted to probate.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”8. Is an old Will valid?”]

A Will can be legally binding no matter how old it is. However, certain subsequent events may cause a change in the Will’s formula of distribution. For example, the birth or adoption of a child, marriage, divorce or annulment after the Will was signed may alter how assets will be distributed among family members. For this reason, it is very important to review your Will periodically, especially if a major life event has occurred.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”9. What if a Will is in a safe deposit box?”]

If the decedent’s Will or other important papers are in a safe deposit box, the Probate Court can issue an order authorizing a family member or other person to gain access to the safe deposit box. The box will be opened in the presence of a bank officer and the contents cataloged. If there is a Will in the safe deposit box, it must be filed with the Probate Court.

A similar situation might involve a decedent who lived alone in a house or apartment, and no relative can be found to take proper action. The court has the ability to appoint a temporary administrator to safeguard the decedent’s belongings and take other action to protect the estate.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”10. What if a person dies without a Will?”]

If the decedent had property solely in his or her name, then it is necessary for an appropriate person (usually a family member) to file an application with the Probate Court for administration of the decedent’s estate. Since there is no Will, the property is distributed, after payment of expenses and debts, in accordance with the Connecticut laws of intestate distribution. The estate is called “intestate” because there is no Will.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”11. How is the property distributed when there is no Will?”]

If the decedent is survived by:

Spouse and children* of both decedent and spouse

Spouse takes first $100,000 + 1/2 of the remainder. Children* take the other 1/2.

Spouse and children* of decedent, when one or more of the children is not a child of the surviving spouse

Spouse takes 1/2. All the children* share the other 1/2 equally.

Spouse and parents (no children or descendants)

Spouse takes first $100,000 + 3/4 of the remainder. Parents take the other 1/4.

Spouse only (no children or descendants, no parents)

All goes to the spouse.

Children* only (no spouse)

All goes to the children.*

Parents (no spouse, no children or descendants)

All goes to the parents.

Brothers* and sisters* (no spouse, no parents, no children or descendants)

All goes to the brothers* and sisters.*

Next of kin (no spouse, no children or descendants, no parents, no siblings or descendants of siblings)

All goes to the next of kin.

If there is no next of kin, but there is a stepchild,* he or she will be next in line to take. If there is no stepchild, all goes to the State of Connecticut.

*If a person(s) in this category of heirs has died before the decedent, his or her descendants take instead.

 

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”12. What is a Probate Court hearing?”]

A Probate Court hearing is an opportunity for all family members and other interested parties to appear at the court to ask questions or state their positions on the issue that is the subject of the hearing. Notice of a hearing should not be ignored if there are any questions on, or objections to, matters being heard.

The court will notify all parties when a hearing has been scheduled. A court may sometimes send notice that a petition or motion has been received and indicate that the petition or motion will be granted unless an interested party requests a hearing. A court may also act on a petition or motion without a hearing if all interested parties file a written waiver of notice of the hearing.

Notice is required at the time each estate is opened and at the time the executor or administrator files a final financial report or account. Hearings may also be necessary at other stages of the proceedings. Probate hearings are normally informal proceedings; however, the rules of evidence apply in contested matters

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”13. What if I don’t know what the assets are?”]

It is not necessary to have detailed information about the assets of an estate before beginning the probate process. When little or no information is available, the fiduciary may file an application for the appointment of an “estate examiner” with limited authority to obtain information about the assets of the estate. An estate examiner can, for example, obtain information about bank accounts that would not otherwise be available to a person having no legal authority. This information may be necessary to determine whether there are any assets or whether the matter may be settled as a small estate. (See Question 6.) This process may also be used to obtain medical or other information to determine whether there is a basis to bring a lawsuit, such as for wrongful death, on behalf of the estate.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”14. When a person dies, are his or her assets “frozen” and unavailable to the family?”]

In most cases, joint survivorship assets between the decedent and family members are immediately available to the survivors without court approval. However, assets in the name of the decedent alone may not be used until an executor or administrator is appointed, which, in most cases, takes two to four weeks. (In an emergency, the court can appoint a temporary administrator sooner). Once an executor or administrator is appointed, assets may be used to pay expenses and debts. A family car may be used during the settlement of the estate with permission of the court.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”15. Do any special rules apply if the decedent owned firearms?”]

Firearms may be sold or transferred only to persons who are legally eligible to receive them. Transfers of handguns require written application to, and authorization from, the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP). The department’s Special Licensing and Firearms Unit may be reached at (860) 685-8290 or 1-888-335-8438. Long guns may be transferred in accordance with the above procedur Alternatively, they may be transferred to a person holding a valid firearms eligibility certificate or permit following a national instant criminal background check performed by a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Executors and administrators should also take note that handguns may be legally transported only by an individual holding a valid Connecticut permit to carry a pistol or revolver. An executor or administrator should avoid transporting such weapons unless he or she has the necessary permit.

If the decedent owned an assault weapon or one or more large capacity ammunition magazines, special rules apply. Generally, assault weapons and large capacity magazines may not be sold or transferred in Connecticut except to a licensed firearms dealer. They may, however, pass to heirs or beneficiaries under the provisions of a Will or the laws of intestacy. The executor or administrator must obtain the approval of the Probate Court before distributing the items to any heir or beneficiary. In addition, the recipient must apply to DESPP for the necessary documentation.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”16. Does death relieve a family from paying the decedent’s debts?”]

A creditor has a right to look for payment of any outstanding obligation incurred in the decedent’s lifetime from the decedent’s estate. In most cases, creditors and family members agree on the amount that the decedent owed, and payment is made voluntarily by the executor or administrator. However, a creditor should protect himself or herself by filing a written claim of the debt with the executor or administrator. If the executor or administrator has given notice that the claims must be filed in a specified period, the creditor must file the claim by the deadline indicated in the notice. A creditor who fails to submit a claim by the deadline may lose the right to collect the debt.

In many instances, joint assets are not subject to the claims of creditors. However, there are exceptions to this rule that should be carefully considered. For example, the decedent’s share of a joint bank account may be subject to certain expenses or debts if the estate lacks sufficient funds to pay for them.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”17. How does the Connecticut Estate and Gift Tax operate?”]

Connecticut taxable estates valued at more than $2 million.

For Connecticut taxable estates of more than $2 million, the executor or administrator must file an original Connecticut Estate and Gift Tax Return, Form CT-706/709, with the Commissioner of Revenue Services and a copy with the Probate Court for the district in which the decedent resided on the date of death, OR, if the decedent died as a nonresident of Connecticut, with the Probate Court where the decedent’s real property or tangible personal property was located within Connecticut. The filing deadline is six months from the date of death, and interest and penalties will accrue from that date.

The executor or administrator must send any tax due directly to the Department of Revenue Services with a cover letter referencing the name of the estate. The Department of Revenue Services will review the Form CT-706/709 and issue its tax assessment accordingly. Forms CT-706/709 and CT-706 NT (discussed below) are available at each of Connecticut’s Probate Courts and on the Department of Revenue Services’ website at ct.gov/drs/site/default.asp. (A link is available on the Probate Court website, ctpobate.gov under “Probate Court Forms”).

Inquiries about the Connecticut Estate and Gift Tax should be directed to the Department of Revenue Services, 25 Sigourney St., Hartford, CT 06106.

Connecticut taxable estates valued at $2 million or less.

The procedure is different for estates of $2 million or less. The fiduciary must file Form CT-706 NT, Connecticut Estate Tax Return (For Nontaxable Estates), only with the Probate Court. If the probate judge determines that the estate is not subject to tax based on this return, the judge will issue a written opinion of no tax. The filing deadline is six months  from the date of death.

Note: The laws governing estates of decedents who died prior to July 1, 2005 and in 2010 are different than those stated above.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”18. How are probate fees calculated?”]

Probate fees are established by statute. They are based on all assets in which the decedent had ownership, whether or not the assets are part of the probate estate. The formula is currently as follows:

Value of Estate                  Probate Fee

$0 to $500                         $25.00

$501 to $1,000                  $50.00

$1,000 to $10,000              $50.00, plus 1% of all in excess of $1,000

$10,000 to $500,000          $150.00, plus .0035 of all in excess of  $10,000

$500,000 to $4,754,000     $1,865.00, plus .0025 of all in excess of  $500,000

$4,754,000 and over          $12,500.00

Note that the value of any asset passing to a surviving spouse is reduced by 50% for the purpose of calculating the probate fee.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”19. Is interest charged for late payment of probate fees?”]

Yes. If an invoice for probate fees is not paid within 30 days, interest is charged at the rate of 0.5% per month on the unpaid balance.

Interest is also charged when an estate tax return is not filed by the deadline. Estate tax returns are required for all estates, regardless of value. If an estate tax return is not filed by the due date, including any extension, interest is charged on the probate fee at the rate of 0.5% per month.

The Probate Court may extend the time for filing an estate tax return or the deadline for payment of the probate fee if the court finds that requiring such payment by the due date would cause undue hardship. No additional interest accrues during the extension period. The Probate Court may not waive interest outside of any extension period.

[/et_pb_accordion_item][et_pb_accordion_item title=”20. What can I do if I disagree with a decision of the court?”]

Any party who is aggrieved by a decision of the Probate Court may appeal to the Superior Court. In general, appeals must be taken within 30 days of the mailing of the Probate Court decision, but some matters have a shorter or longer appeal period. Procedures in the Superior Court are typically more formal than in the Probate Courts.

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Source:  PROBATE COURT USER GUIDE

PUBLISHED BY OFFICE OF THE PROBATE COURT ADMINISTRATOR STATE OF CONNECTICUT

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