For those of you who are involved in conservatorship matters in Connecticut, there's a whole new atmosphere in our probate courts due to a new set of laws that kicked in on October 1st. This was prompted mostly by a great deal of negative press that the Connecticut probate system has been receiving over the last several years.
In regards to the "big picture" evaluation of the new laws, there are two issues to bring to your attention: (1) more formal hearings, and (2) an enhanced emphasis on the conserved person's wishes.
As of October 1st, all probate court hearings, regardless of whether or not the matter is contested, must follow the formal rules of evidence. This includes the use of tape-recorders during hearings, swearing in anyone who provides testimony, etc. This is a dramatic departure from the previous procedure which allowed for a more informal approach to hearings and employed more relaxed evidence rules in order to facilitate a less restrictive discussion of conservatorship matters.
The new laws also mandate a stronger consideration of the conserved person's wishes when the conservator acts and when the Court renders a decision. Essentially, if the conserved person can communicate his wishes and it's possible to accomodate such wishes without jeopardizing his safety and well-being (and the necessary financial support can be provided) then the conservator needs to to do what she can to fulfill those wishes. The law talks about the "reasonable and informed preferences" of the conserved person, which is certainly open to different interpretations. In any case, the strong emphasis on ascertaining and trying to fulfill the conserved person's wishes is new to conservatorship law in Connecticut.