Town Diary - March 2001
A couple of days with Curt Case - Judge of Probate
If you haven't already had business for the probate judge, it
is a good bet that sooner or later you will pay a visit to Curt Case's office at
the Barkhamsted Town Hall. It may be for a pleasant reason, such as the passport
you need for that trip to Tahiti, or for a reason such as estate matters for a deceased
Curt has been the Barkhamsted probate judge since a special election
held on April 3, 1990, which he won by receiving 346 votes out of a total of 604
cast. Since then, Curt has been re-elected in three uncontested races.
The probate judge serves a 4-year term.
Photo- Barkhamsted Probate Judge Curt Case,- March 28, 2001
What does the probate judge do? Well, over two typical
days in March 2001, here is what Curt did:
At the start of the day, a couple of investigators
came in to talk to Curt about an active case that was going through the legal system.
Curt helped provide public information that was on file regarding inventory items
in an estate connected to the case. Later, Curt spent time finishing the paperwork
for the establishment of an estate for a person that had died without a will.
On this same matter he had previously conducted a hearing and appointed the administrator
for the estate. Now he documented that appointment and prepared fiduciary
certificates giving that administrator the authority to transfer assets. In
addition he notified the State Department of Revenue Services of the creation of
the estate and the administrator's appointment. Curt finished the day by writing
up the legal notice that will appear in the newspaper. This notice tells creditors
that the estate has been opened and where they can send information on outstanding
debts for the deceased.
The next day, Curt started off by meeting with
two Barkhamsted residents who wanted passports (you don't have to be a town resident
to get a passport from Curt- he will provide this service for anyone). Not
all probate courts issue passports- it is left up to the individual court.
Curt issued a total of nine passports in the month of March 2001.
After the passports, Curt opened an item from the mail.
It was the final paperwork from an estate administrator informing him that all work
on an estate had been completed and that the estate should be closed. Curt
reviewed the estate accounting and other paperwork to make sure it was in order
and then prepared for the hearing scheduled for tomorrow. He had previously
scheduled the hearing and had contacted all those impacted by the closing of this
estate. It is very common for the hearing to go unattended, but Curt must
be prepared nonetheless.
Later that day a person dropped by to file an affidavit regarding
the will of his deceased relative. The assets were less than $20,000 and included
no real estate, so the procedure to transfer the assets was simple and quick.
Then Curt wrapped up some routine tasks, including the processing
of four checks he had received for the passports issued earlier. The probate
court collects a fee of $60 (for those over age 16) for each passport issued.
Of this fee, the probate court keeps $15 and $45 is sent to the US State Department.
Passports are good for 10 years (5 years for those younger than age 16).
These two days are a fairly typical snapshot of the routine for
the probate judge. Official court hours are 10:00 to 1:00 on Mondays, Tuesdays
and Wednesdays and by appointment. Curt normally spends about 15 to 18 hours
a week on his duties. From Curt's perspective, the job is like a part-time,
self-employed business. The town is required only to provide a suitable location
(usually in the town hall) and some basic supplies. Curt's salary and other
expenses are not paid by the town or state but by the fees paid by his customers.
If no one comes through the door, then nothing is collected, and his salary for
the job suffers.
Fees collected for probate services are set by State statutes
and are the same for all probate courts in Connecticut. The State pays nothing
toward the probate system, but it does collect a portion of the probate fees to
cover the cost to administer the probate system. A small town such as Barkhamsted
will not have sufficient activity to warrant a judge devoting full time to the position.
Perhaps 90% of the fees making up Curt's income are derived from estate matters-
distribution of a person's property after death. Fees are charged on a sliding
scale based on a percentage of the gross taxable estate.
In addition, fees are charged for other probate services (many
of them a flat $150) such as the appointment of conservators (someone managing the
affairs and/or finances of another person), guardianships (someone who manages the
finances and/or affairs of a minor or the mentally retarded) and trustees (a person
appointed to manage a trust). Depending on the situation in these appointments,
Curt may be responsible to monitor events, receive and review accountings, set hearings
and settle disputes. Other activities covered by the probate court include
termination of parental rights, consideration and approval of adoptions, and approval
of accounts of conservators, guardians, and testamentary trustees. The probate
court is also empowered to grant a change of name.
Curt enjoys the work at the probate court and Barkhamsted is
fortunate to have the resources of such a skilled and experienced Judge of Probate
to assist residents through a variety of transitions in life.
back to the
Town Diary front page