Goodwin v. Colchester Probate Court
A Probate Court is not required to admit a will to probate, if there is "sufficient objection" to the admission of the will, pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes §45a-288(a). The plaintiff's decedent, Rose Fedus, resided in Philadelphia, and her will was admitted to probate in Philadelphia in October 2008. The plaintiff, James Goodwin, sought ancillary administration of the will in Colchester Probate Court in Connecticut. The defendants objected. In January 2011, the Colchester Probate Court found that there was "sufficient objection" to the admission of the will, and it denied Goodwin's request to admit the will to ancillary probate. Goodwin appealed to Connecticut Superior Court and argued that the defendants failed to establish there was "sufficient objection" to the admission of the will. Connecticut General Statutes §45a-288(a) provides, "If the court of probate finds sufficient objection to such will, the applicant shall offer competent proof of the contents and legal sufficiency of the will." The Superior Court did not find any Connecticut decisions that interpret the phrase "sufficient objection" for the purposes of C.G.S. §45a-288(a). Ruling on an issue of apparent first impression in Connecticut, the court found that the plaintiff's interpretation would render the phrase "sufficient objection" a mere nullity. The statute permits the Probate Court, after a hearing, to decide whether any objections to the admission of the will are sufficient. "The plain language of the statute," wrote the court, "does not require that the defendants first object to the proceedings." The Full Faith and Credit Clause of the U.S. Constitution did not require that the Connecticut court admit the will to probate. The doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel also did not bar the Probate Court from considering the sufficiency of objections. There were genuine issues of material fact concerning the objections of undue influence and lack of capacity, and the court denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.