On CT Probate Court Reform and Taxing Legal Services
By Ryan McKeen
I love those new light bulbs, you know, the spiral kind. Their packaging tells me that I can save $120 a year or something if I replace my old fashioned light bulbs. Having changed out my bulbs – they’re not kidding, I do save money on my monthly electric bill.
The problem is to save that money, I must first spend money on new bulbs. If I didn’t have any money, I’d be stuck with my old bulbs which would cost me more money each month and I’d be poorer because of it.
The Hartford Courant does near weekly articles on how much our probate courts cost and how they’re nearly bankrupt.
One of the reasons probate courts operate at a deficit is conservatorships. If a person doesn’t have money the court appoints an attorney for the proposed conserved person and pays that attorney at a rate of $50 an hour. If the person is conserved, the court also pays a conservator $50 an hour to manage that person’s affairs.
One of the most effective ways to prevent a conservatorship proceeding is to execute a living will and power of attorney. People often end up conserved because for one reason or another they fail to do any advanced planning.
Sometimes perceived cost is a reason people don’t see an attorney to do a living will or a power of attorney.
Consequently, our state pays more for conservatorships because people don’t do advanced planning.
It’s like we’re running our state on old light bulbs.
What the legislature should consider is a tax credit on legal fees for people who do some advanced planning.
What the legislature is doing is considering a tax on legal services and raising the attorney occupational tax – both of which will result in a higher cost of legal services for residents of Connecticut.
Raising the cost of legal services for the middle class is about as short sighted as the state deciding to raise taxes on those cool new light bulbs.