The Bastion hosts a spirited discussion on the first question facing Belknap County residents on November 8. This question revolves around whether or not we keep the “Register of Probate” position moving forward.
- What is the Register of Probate Position?
According to Ballotpedia: The Register of Probate is an elected office in some states. The office had previously handled wills, the administration of estates, trusts, guardianships, adoptions, and name changes.
In New Hampshire, prior to 2011, the Register of Probate office handled simple wills. But after 2011, when the New Hampshire state legislature approved a reorganization of the court system, many of the official duties of the Register of Probate office were stripped. After 2011, the primary job of the Register of Probate is to preserve files that have “the potential for historical significance.”
- How long is the term for a Register of Probate?
- What is the pay stipend for the Register of Probate position?
$100 per year. That’s not a typo.
- What would this bill do if it was approved by the voters?
It would remove the Office of the Register of Probate along with the position as well as remove references to it from the New Hampshire Constitution
- Who put forth this bill in the House of Representatives?
Sponsored by Rep. Norman Silber and Rep. Aidan K. Ankarberg
- What does voting NO on this ballot measure do?
a NO vote would not support the elimination of the Office of Register of Probate or references to it within the Constitution
- What does voting YES on this ballot measure do?
a YES vote would support the elimination of the Office of Register of Probate and references to it within the Constitution.
- What else should I know?
From a written statement, current Belknap County Register of Probate Alan Glassman says:
he’s running to continue working with other county registers, the secretary of state, state Senators and state representatives to reinstate customer service in the probate division, which he said will reduce the financial burden for county residents when a family member’s estate must go through probate, often with the help of a lawyer. Glassman said the 2011 shift of probate duties to the judicial branch increased costs for those who aren’t able to complete the required filings online, and haven’t structured their estates to avoid probate altogether.
“Feedback from many NH residents after encountering very limited assistance at the courthouse is that they have been advised to seek an attorney if they are unable to properly submit the necessary information. If we still had functioning registers of probate to help, most residents would not have to deal with attorneys and their associated legal fees.”
In 2013, former Hillsborough County register of probate Joseph Kelly Levasseur filed a writ of prohibition with the state Supreme Court, saying that the transfer of duties from the register of probate was unconstitutional, due to the duties being transferred to an unelected position. The attorney general objected to the writ, and then the Supreme Court denied the writ
Elimination of this county level position also would eliminate it from instances where it is mentioned within county documents, and would no longer be a county officer position.
Now is the time for your humble contributors at The Bastion to give their opinions on the matter:
T-Bone Jankowski: Voting YES – FOR REMOVING THE REGISTER OF PROBATE
In my career and on a daily basis there are times when I wish our government would get more involved in the needs of the people to defend themselves against encroaching red tape and bureaucracy that I see so often in foreign countries. We don’t have a very strong office of Ombudsman here in the States, whereas I see in other countries that this is a time honored and virtuous position that does in fact work to help protect consumers from not only private entities such as the banking industry but also from government overreach. Though, in many of the instances where a person may need an Ombudsman I also find that there’s a severe lack of attention or education in the problems that the people are facing. If our country were up to snuff, we’d be helping educate people on the importance of end of life planning, ensuring people of all means are able to easily and lawfully pre-distribute their life’s earnings to those whom they see fit to while they’re still alive. If we could move towards a world where people begin to take responsibility for themselves in their end of life care and estates, the hardship of doling out the remaining assets wouldn’t fall on those who can’t afford to fight over it. This would also make the position of Register of Probate to be completely moot, a direction in which I hope we as a people are heading. The arguments made that it’s simply too costly to afford to hire an attorney to handle these end of life dealings are the arguments for the lowest common denominator. We don’t assign government individuals to handle informing and assisting people with their credit card debt. We don’t need government involved with the assistance of people with their daily budgeting. These are things that people must figure out on their own, or more to the point, not assign a government individual to assist you with. Hence, why the position has already been stripped to its core and handed off to the Clerk of Probate offices. Even those running for office currently are understanding and would admit that the position holds not a lot of tasks and are pivoting towards re-adding these tasks once stripped of it. I don’t feel the need to re-institute government into this role, and I feel it would be a mistake to take a role that has already been more efficiently handed off to another government entity to be brought back around in order to make the Register of Probate position worthwhile. I would and will vote yes to eliminate this unnecessary and already stripped down position.
Representative Gregg Hough: Voting NO – FOR KEEPING THE REGISTER OF PROBATE
(ala Dan Akroyd 1970’s SNL point counter point with Jane curtain) Today’s politics seem to be based on the traditional ability to persuade people to one side or another but instead of using the American style of making an informed choice we are dealt misinformation and half truths so our ability to choose wisely is skewed. I’m not accusing anyone personally of this tactic, none the less as the issue of The Register of Probate is brought to light it is with but only a fraction of the story.
A little background. In 1776 our original NH State constitution did not have the office of ROP included. In 1784 NH replaced the Constitution with a new and improved one that included the position but it wasn’t an elected one. Then almost 100 years later the State Constitution was amended to make the ROP and elected position. Finally in 2011 it was gutted in favor of a judicial system overhaul which gave most of the ROP powers and responsibilities to the County Clerks. The devil is in the details. As the description above would lead anyone to believe that the original job was basically nothing to begin with that isn’t entirely the case. Generally the function of the job is to assist and help the PEOPLE to process estates, mental health files, trust files, civil files, wills, some guardianships, some conservatorships and ensure compliance with statutes and court rulings. So what does that all really mean? As my esteemed colleague alludes to in his well rounded argument above, we can’t expect government to look out for the people. Some people can’t bare the legal costs of attending to these matters. This is exactly why this position was created, and then put to the people to vote for, and to let the counties decide what the compensation should be.
This position much like our county nursing home isn’t there because government is all powerful, but as a safety net of sorts for those among us who can not afford a lawyer and shouldn’t trust the state to care for citizens best interest. This is evident in the constitutional amendment to make it an elected post. I put forth as an un-elected post the appointed bureaucrats were working in their own (the States) best interest. Much like the courts and clerks will do today. By making it an elected post it gave power back to the people, if people were not satisfied with the job being done they have a say in replacing the person and electing someone else.
The story you get is provided by lawyers who like to get their own way, and to make their job easier. What better way than to get rid of an advocate of the people. Just like you wouldn’t get rid of a public defender, you should not get rid of the ROP. in fact legislation should be brought forth to re-instate the original duties for the people. People work hard for what they have, and deserve to not be taken advantage of by the government, this is why I will be voting NO to oppose eliminating the position and to keep the mechanism in place and ask that a petition be made of our legislators to re-instate the ROP to it’s intended role to assist the people in their affairs in our Great State of New Hampshire.