Milford-Orange Probate Judge Beverly K. Streit-Kefalas has been appointed Probate Court Administrator — the head of the state’s probate court system — effective Sept. 3, making her the first woman to serve in the role.

Streit-Kefalas will replace Judge Paul J. Knierim, who is retiring Aug. 31 after 11 years.

The Office of the Probate Court Administrator for Connecticut was established to provide oversight and administrative support for the probate courts, and the Probate Court Administrator heads up that office. The office is charged with developing legislation, regulations and policies to improve the probate court system.

There are 54 probate courts in Connecticut plus six regional children’s probate courts.

“Judge Knierim is a very hard act to follow, however, I am confident that Judge Streit-Kefalas has the ability, talent and extensive knowledge to continue with Judge Knierim’s successes and initiate her own to further modernize Connecticut’s probate courts,” Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson said in announcing the appointment in a press release July 12.

Knierim praised the appointment, which marks the first time a woman has led the probate court system.

“Chief Justice Robinson has picked an exceptionally capable judge to lead the probate courts,” Knierim said in a prepared statement. “Judge Streit-Kefalas is bright, she’s hard-working and she’s a woman of great integrity. I am absolutely thrilled that she will be succeeding me. I’ve witnessed firsthand her incredible dedication to the mission of the probate courts. Her life’s work has been helping children and families during some of the most difficult times of their lives.”

Streit-Kefalas said that while many people think of probate court in terms of dealing with estates and trusts, more and more focus has been on sensitive family issues, such as dealing with matters related to elderly people with cognitive impairments, child custody issues and the like.

“We are very hands-on with families at a very vulnerable time,” she said.

Streit-Kefalas said she will continue focusing on ways to enhance access to justice and ensuring that the probate system is well equipped to handle the state’s diverse population.

First elected as a probate judge in November 1998, Streit-Kefalas has been re-elected as probate judge for the Milford Probate Court and then the combined Milford-Orange Probate Court each term thereafter. Her current term runs through 2022.

She plans to maintain both positions for the time being.

“For the present time,” she said, “I will continue with my duties as the Milford-Orange probate judge in addition to my new responsibilities as the Probate Court Administrator.”

A graduate of Smith College and the University of Connecticut School of Law, Streit-Kefalas has served as the administrative judge of the New Haven Regional Children’s Probate Court. She also is past president of the Connecticut Probate Assembly and an active member of many probate assembly working committees.

She also serves on the boards of Bridges Healthcare Inc., The Boys & Girls Club in Milford, the Devon Rotary and the Milford Senior Center Council on Aging.