Distinguishing Between Connecticut Estate Taxes and Probate Court Fees

As we discussed in an earlier blog post, many Connecticut residents attempt to “avoid probate” for a variety of reasons, including the desire to bypass paying Connecticut estate taxes and Probate Court fees.   Unfortunately for some unwary decedents and their heirs, however, avoiding probate might not be beneficial in all situations because it will not bypass certain Probate Court fees.

Fortunately for many Connecticut residents, relatively few estates are liable to pay Connecticut estate taxes because the tax only applies to transfers to non-spouses in excess of two million dollars ($2,000,000.00).  Structuring an estate plan in a way that avoids the probate process still might be worthwhile, by saving time and  attorney’s fees for required probate filings.

Unfortunately, however, almost everyone is responsible for paying probate court fees.  Connecticut probate court fees are calculated based upon the total assets listed on the Connecticut estate tax return filed at the time of a decedent’s death.  The values of joint bank accounts, IRAs and life insurance death benefits must generally be included on the Connecticut estate tax return, even if these assets do not pass through probate.  The due date for filing of the Connecticut Estate tax return is the six month anniversary of the deceased’s date of death. A joint owner (if there is no executor appointed) has an obligation to make the filing. Title to jointly-held real estate (for example, between a decedent and surviving spouse) is not clear for resale until a release of the Connecticut Estate tax lien has been issued by the probate court, so that the filing (and paying the Connecticut probate court fees)  is a necessary step.

Recently, the State legislature eliminated most funding for the Connecticut Probate system in its attempt to reach a State budget compromise, which means that the probate fees, particularly with respect to deceased persons, will likely need to increase to cover the cost of operations. Stay tuned for more information!

-D. Jeanne Messick, Esq.

Disclaimer: While this blog provides general information, it does not constitute legal advice. The best way to get guidance on your specific legal issue is to contact a lawyer. To schedule a meeting with an attorney, please call one of our lawyers at (860) 316-2741. The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.