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Probate Law Appellate Court Opinion

by Booth, George

 

AC38630 - Hynes v. Jones (Probate; whether Superior Court properly dismissed appeal from Probate Court's denial of motion to dismiss guardianship proceedings; "Following the two devastating terrorist attacks on Washington and New York and a third thwarted by air passengers who died over Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001, Congress enacted the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001 (fund) as part of the Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act to indemnify the surviving families of those who died or were injured in the air and on the ground that day. The appeal before us from a judgment of the Superior Court dismissing the appeal of the plaintiff, Carolyne Y. Hynes, from a decree of the Norwalk Probate Court, arises out of a separate payment of $1,271,940.12 made from the fund to the plaintiff as "representative payee" for the benefit of her daughter, Olivia T. Hynes. Olivia is a minor child, who was born after her father, Thomas Hynes, a business executive, was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. At issue is whether the Probate Court for the district of Norwalk had jurisdiction to appoint the plaintiff as guardian of Olivia's estate and to appoint the defendant, Sharon M. Jones, as Olivia's successor guardian ad litem under the authority granted to the Probate Court under the General Statutes, despite the fact that Olivia ceased to reside in the District of Norwalk at the time of the appointment. A second issue is whether the Probate Court lacked jurisdiction to institute the guardianship proceedings because the $1,271,940.12 was later paid directly to Olivia's mother from the fund as "representative payee." We first conclude that because Thomas Hynes was domiciled in Norwalk at the time he died intestate, our General Statutes gave the Norwalk Probate Court authority to supervise the settlement of his estate, determine its distribution, and protect the interests of his minor heir. Pursuant to General Statutes §§ 45a-303 (a), 45a-98, and 45a-438, there were grounds to justify the Probate Court's exercise of jurisdiction as part of its supervision of the administration and distribution of Thomas Hynes' estate, and the Probate Court's and Superior Court's denials of the plaintiff's motion to dismiss. We further conclude that General Statutes §§ 45a-629 (a), 45a-437, and 45a-631 authorized appointment of a guardian because Olivia was entitled to share one half of any award of damages resulting from her father's death, and Olivia was domiciled in Norwalk at the time she became entitled to an award under the fund. Finally, we conclude that the plaintiff's later decision to receive Olivia's award in 2004 as a representative payee did not serve to exempt the $1,271,940.12 that the fund paid on behalf of Olivia from Connecticut's statutory protections for minors' property. We therefore conclude that the Norwalk Probate Court had such jurisdiction and affirm the judgment of the Superior Court acting as the Probate Court on appeal from probate.")