Legal Memorandum: Burden of Proof in Appeals from Probate

Issue: Who has the burden of proof in an appeal to a superior court in Connecticut in a probate matter?

Area of Law: Estate Planning & Probate, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Burden of proof; Probate matter
Jurisdiction: Connecticut
Cited Cases: 80 Conn. 401; 375 A.2d 1013; 172 Conn. 529; 440 A.2d 242; 251 A.2d 67; 157 Conn. 181; 550 A.2d 1069; 198 A. 570; 675 A.2d 449; 184 Conn. 602; 705 A.2d 1025; 158 Conn. 286
Cited Statutes: Conn. Gen. Stat.. § 45a-186 (Supp. 2000); Conn. Gen. Stat. § 45a-191 (1993)
Date: 09/01/2000

In Connecticut, a person who is “aggrieved by” a probate court decision may appeal to the superior court.  Conn. Gen. Stat.. § 45a-186 (Supp. 2000).  Such an appeal from the decision of the probate court is not really an appeal, but a trial de novo, with the superior court acting as a probate court.  Mangines v. Ermisch, 45 Conn. Supp. 197, 199, 705 A.2d 1025, 1027 (Super. Ct. 1997), aff’d, 243 Conn. 510, 704 A.2d[1] 1174 (1998).  The superior court’s function in such a case is to consider “‘all evidence presented on the appeal which would have been admissible in the probate court, . . . exercise the same power of judgment which the probate court possessed and decide the appeal as an original proposition unfettered by, and ignoring, the result reached in the probate court.'”  Id., 45 Conn. Supp. at 200, 705 A.2d at 1027 (quoting Kerin v. Stangle, 209 Conn. 260, 264, 550 A.2d 1069 (1988)).

This has been the rule in Connecticut since 1969 when the supreme court held that without exception the probate court’s discretion passes to the superior court on appeal and the superior court is not to consider the probate court’s decision at all.  Prince v. Sheffield, 158 Conn. 286, 259 A.2d 621, 627 (1969) (ordering a new trial because the superior court erroneously affirmed the probate court’s decision as within its discretion and neither arbitrary nor unreasonable, rather than exercising the powers of the probate court to decide […]

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