The Connecticut Probate Court System, established in 1666, has functioned mostly unchanged for more than 300 years. Recently, questions have been raised about the efficiency and financial stability of the probate courts, which have jurisdiction over probate of wills, decisions on conservators or guardians, adoptions, custody and name changes. After careful scrutiny of the probate system, the Program Review and Investigations Committee, a bipartisan group of 12 legislators mandated to evaluate state programs, has generated a list of recommended actions. Connecticut lawmakers must now review these recommendations in an attempt to sculpt legislation to implement any changes.
Presently, there are 123 probate districts that serve the 169 municipalities of Connecticut. Each district has a probate judge elected to a four-year-term. There are no mandated requirements to assume this role, but probate judges must pursue continuing education during their tenure. The overall court is directed by the Probate Court Administrator, Judge James J. Lawlor; this position is an appointment of the Supreme Court Justice. Despite this, individual probate judges can determine their own hours and choose their own staff.