PA 10-184—sHB 5407

Judiciary Committee

Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING PROBATE FEES AND THE RECORDING OF PROBATE PROCEEDINGS

SUMMARY: This act makes several changes regarding probate court fees and related matters.

For probate proceedings to settle a decedent's estate begun on or after January 1, 2011, the act (1) excludes out-of-state property from the definition of the gross estate for estate tax purposes that is used to compute the basis for probate costs and (2) eliminates the 0. 1% fee for jointly owned real estate for estates that are not required to file a succession tax return (gross taxable estates of less than $600,000). For those who die on or after January 1, 2011, the act imposes interest on unpaid costs for settling a person's estate. The interest requirement does not apply if the basis for costs for the estate does not exceed (1) $40,000 or (2) $500,000 and any portion of the property included in the cost basis passes to a surviving spouse. The act allows an extension for paying estate settlement costs, including interest, under certain conditions ( 1).

In addition, the act:

1. when a court determines that someone is due a refund of probate court costs, fees, charges, or expenses, requires the probate court administrator to issue a refund from the Probate Court Administration Fund upon receiving certification of the overpayment by the probate court that issued the related invoice ( 3);

2. repeals the requirement that parties appealing a probate court decision pay a $50 fee to the probate court (by law, appeals must be filed in the Superior Court, not the probate court) ( 1, 5, 6);

3. specifies that a transferee who files an estate tax return, if there is no executor or administrator in connection with an estate settlement, must pay any costs, fees, expenses, and other charges due for the settlement proceedings ( 2);

4. allows payment of probate court fees by credit card ( 4);

5. provides, upon the written request of a party or his or her attorney, for the recording of probate proceedings not required by law to be recorded ( 7); and

6. makes minor and technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: January 1, 2011, except for the provisions eliminating the fee for appeals (other than specifically related to settlement of a decedent's estate) and specifying that costs must be paid by a transferee who files an estate tax return, which are effective upon passage, and the provision regarding recording of probate proceedings, which is effective October 1, 2010.

1 — MODIFICATION OF GROSS ESTATE COMPUTATION

By law, part of the calculation for determining the basis for settlement costs for a decedent's estate is his or her gross estate for estate tax purposes (see BACKGROUND). The act changes the definition of “gross estate for estate tax purposes” for probate proceedings to settle a decedent's estate begun on or after January 1, 2011. For someone who died while domiciled in Connecticut, the act excludes the fair market value of the person's real or tangible personal property located outside of Connecticut. For someone who died while not domiciled in Connecticut, but who owned real or tangible personal property in Connecticut at his or her death, the act includes only the fair market value of such property; any property located outside Connecticut is excluded from the computation.

1 — INTEREST ON UNPAID COSTS

For those who die on or after January 1, 2011, the act applies interest at the rate of 0. 5% per month or portion of a month for estate settlement costs not paid within 30 days of the probate court's invoice. If a required estate tax return or copy was not filed with the probate court by the due date or by the date an extension expires, the act applies the same interest rate to any costs that would have been due had the return or copy been timely filed, starting 30 days after the due date or extension expiration date, whichever is later. The act specifies that if the return or copy is filed with the probate court by its due date or extension expiration date, whichever is later, the assessed costs will bear interest as provided by the act.

The act authorizes a probate court to extend the time for paying any costs, including interest, for matters related to estate settlement if it determines that requiring payment by the estate tax return's due date or expiration date would cause undue hardship. During such an extension, additional interest does not accrue. Other than providing an extension, a probate court cannot waive the required interest.

4 — CREDIT CARD PAYMENTS

The act allows people to pay probate court costs, fees, charges, or expenses by credit card. It permits the probate court administrator to (1) prescribe conditions concerning when cards can be used and (2) impose a service fee as long as it does not exceed any credit card issuer charge, including any discount.

7 — RECORDING OF PROBATE COURT PROCEEDINGS

The act requires a probate judge to record probate proceedings not required by law to be recorded, upon the written request of a party or attorney. It provides that a proceeding recorded pursuant to such a request is not deemed to be an on-the-record hearing or matter for purposes of the statutory provisions regarding appeals of on-the-record probate proceedings. Any copying or transcript cost of such recordings is charged to the requesting person. The act also requires such recordings to be made and retained in a manner approved by the probate court administrator.

BACKGROUND

Fee Basis, Scale of Fees, and Minimum Fee

Probate fees for settling an estate are based on the estate's value. By law, the estate value for fee purposes is (1) the greater of (a) the gross estate for succession tax purposes, (b) the inventory (the probatable estate), (c) the Connecticut taxable estate, or (d) the gross estate for estate tax purposes, plus (2) all damages recovered for injuries resulting in death, minus (3) certain hospital and medical expenses and any attorneys fees and costs incurred in recovering the damages. The value for fee purposes must be reduced by 50% of any property passing to the surviving spouse. The minimum fee for settling a full estate valued at less than $10,000 is $150.

Table 1 shows the probate fees for proceedings begun on or after April 1, 1998.

Table 1: Probate Fees For Settling Estates

Basis For Computation

Fee

$0 – $500

$25

$501 – $1,000

$50

$1,000 – $10,000

$50, plus 1% of the excess over $1,000

$10,000 – $500,000

$150, plus 0. 35% of the excess over $10,000

$500,000 – $4,754,000

$1,865, plus 0. 25% of the excess over $500,000

$4,754,000 and over

$12,500

Related Acts

PA 10-34 allows (1) the probate court administrator to make, and requires the administrator to enforce, regulations governing record maintenance and eliminates the administrator's authority to use the Uniform Administrative Procedure Act to regulate some other areas; (2) towns in the same probate district to agree on how to share costs associated with court operations; and (3) probate judges to conduct business in any location in Connecticut to facilitate a party's attendance.

PA 10-41 (1) specifies that a probate court judge does not get extra compensation for acting as an administrative judge for a regional children's court, a member of a three-judge panel, a special assignment judge, or the probate court administrator and (2) changes the statutes to reflect the centralized accounting and new pay formula scheduled to take effect January 5, 2011.

PA 10-121 makes Union part of a probate district that includes Enfield, Somers, and Stafford instead of a district that includes Ashford, Brooklyn, Eastford, Pomfret, Putnam, Thompson, and Woodstock when the new districts take effect January 5, 2011.

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