Opinions of the Connecticut Probate Court
In the Matter of N, a Minor
Minor resided in Ohio with her Mother and Siblings. Minor’s Mother reported that Minor was oppositional and engaging in acts of self-mutilation. Minor’s Maternal Aunt, who resided in Connecticut, provided a home and other support for Minor and was granted temporary guardianship. Minor began school in Connecticut, engaged in extracurricular activities, obtained an after-school job, participated in therapy, thrived academically and socially, and exhibited no behavioral issues. Despite Minor’s success, Mother wished for Minor to return to and permanently reside in Ohio. Upon attaining the age of sixteen, Minor petitioned the Court for emancipation from her parents, reasoning that she could no longer live in the chaos of Mother’s home due to Mother’s unpredictable and erratic behavior. A Department of Children and Family investigation was made which supported the Minor’s emancipation. Citing Minor’s maturity, progress since moving to Connecticut, the formation of a loving relationship with Maternal Aunt, the expressed wishes to continue to reside in Connecticut, and the expressed desire not to return to Ohio, the Court granted emancipation. The Court found the statutory standard for emancipation had been met, and that emancipation was in the best interest of the minor.
In Re: The Estate of Francis W. Basnikiewicz
Petitioner sought construction of a Will and Codicil. The Residuary Clause left percentages to named beneficiaries, although the percentages did not add up to dispose of the entire Residue. The Court construed the Will and Codicil to give effect to the plain language that distribution be by specified percentages, with any amounts not disposed of under the Residuary Clause to pass intestate. The Court then addressed the issue of whether each listed beneficiary was to receive the percentage indicated, or whether the indicated percentage was to be divided among the listed beneficiaries. The Court concluded that the Testator intended the percentage indicated to pass to each listed beneficiary severally.
In the Matter of Esteban Gabino Ruiz Rodriguez
Petitioner filed a Motion for “Special Findings” in connection with his application for the appointment of a voluntary conservator, asking the Court to make “Special Immigrant Juveniles Status” (“SIJS”) findings. Although the Court found that the probate court meets the statutory definition of a “juvenile court” under Connecticut law for purposes of a SIJS finding, the Court held that it is not permitted to make the SIJS findings in connection with a conservator proceeding. The Court reasoned that its equitable powers extend only as far as its statutory jurisdiction allows. Accordingly, the Court denied Petitioner’s Motion for “Special Findings.”
Two of Decedent’s children claimed that their father failed to comply with the binding terms of a 1972 Dissolution of Marriage Judgment. As part of the Judgment, Decedent agreed to various provisions relating to his ownership of businesses and also agreed to provide in his Will that upon his death one quarter of his estate would be left outright and absolutely to each of the children. A final financial report and intended distribution of the estate had not been filed; therefore, the Court was only addressing the validity of the claims filed by the children regarding their rights under the Dissolution of Marriage Judgment approved by the Superior Court in 1972. The Court found that the Dissolution Agreement constituted a contract between the Decedent and his first wife. The Court found that elements of the Decedent’s Will did not comply with the binding terms of the Dissolution Agreement. Therefore, the Court held that the children’s claims against their father’s estate were valid and that these claims must be resolved prior to distribution of the estate’s assets.
In Re: The Estate of Marilyn Linder
Petitioner submitted Decedent’s handwritten Will, dated March 15, 1999, which the Court found to be lawfully executed. The Will gave a specific devise and a specific bequest to Petitioner as Guardian of Decedent’s dog and cat, and the Will contained no residuary clause. The heirs at law asked the Court to interpret the specific devise and specific bequest as an attempt by Decedent to create a pet trust, which the heirs at law argued would fail because pet trusts were not enforceable at the time the Will was executed. While the Court found a clear intent for Decedent’s assets to be used for the pets’ benefit, there was no clear indication of Decedent’s intent to create a trust. The Court found that the Will lacked unambiguous trust language, contextual clues indicating an intention to create a trust, and the manifestation of a clear intention to create a trust. The Court held that the bequests transmit absolute gifts, free from definitive conditional or trust language.
In Re: Motion for Recusal and/or Disqualification of Judge Lisa K. Wexler from the Estate of Clara Mertens
Executors of the Estate argued that three allegedly ex parte communications sufficiently affected the proceedings, such that disqualification of the Judge was required pursuant to section 68.1 (a)(1) of the Probate Court Rules of Procedure. The Court found that two of the three were substantively petitions or motions and, therefore, not ex parte communications according to the rule. The third communication was found by the Court to be ex parte, even though each party was on notice of the communications because it was sent to all counsel of record. The Court found that the ex parte communication was only meant to clarify information that had already been provided. The Court found that these circumstances would not permit an objective person to reasonably doubt the Court’s impartiality, and therefore denied the Executor’s Motion for Recusal and Disqualification.
Can a Dead Hand from the Grave Protect the Kids from Darling Daddy or Mommy Dearest?
Brilliant nineteenth century English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, was also an absent father of two, an occasional husband, an impetuous adulterer, and an avowed atheist. In the midst of his expulsion from Oxford University at age nineteen, he eloped with sixteen-year-old Harriet Westbrooke, who was already pregnant with his first child. Less than three years later, Shelley left Harriet, pregnant and with a two-year-old, for an openly scandalous love affair with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Two years later, Harriet, again pregnant, drowned herself, leaving two young children behind, and Shelley free to elope (again) with Godwin. When Shelley decided to raise the children himself, Harriet’s parents refused to release them into Shelley’s custody. Shelley went to court to fight for custody of his children on the grounds of natural parental rights. This article analyzes whether parents in similar circumstances should win such battles.