Opinion: Questions and answers about Probate Court

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On November 6th we will go to the polls to elect our state and federal officials.  We also elect a Judge to preside over the Norwalk/Wilton Probate Court.  Incumbent Judge Anthony DePanfilis, who has served so ably for the past 21 years, is not running for re-election.  Over the several months, while campaigning for the Office of Judge of Probate, I’ve been asked many questions about probate and the Probate Court.

What follows are my answers to frequently asked questions.


Q) What is Probate Court?

A) The Probate Court administers the legal process that allows property of a deceased person to be transferred to their rightful heirs.  This process takes place whether the deceased person had a will or died without a will.  The Probate Court also administers and monitors the process of Guardianships. A Guardian is a person appointed by the court to act on behalf of, and care for, a minor when their parents are unable to do so, or are incapacitated, with special needs or mental illness.  If an incapacitated adult has property and can no longer manage their affairs, the Probate Court may appoint a Conservator to act on behalf of the incapacitated person.  The Probate Court also administers adoptions and change of name applications.


Q) What is the role of a Probate Judge?

A) The Probate Judge administers and oversees the operation of the Probate Court, appoints guardians and conservators, and settles disputes arising out of matters involving trusts and estates, as well as disputes involving the disposition of property of a deceased person.

The Probate Judge is an advocate for people who can no longer speak for themselves, whether they have passed on or are still living but are incapacitated.  The Judge helps families through some of their most challenging times by fairly, efficiently, and compassionately guiding them through the legal process.


Q) When do you need to go to the Probate Court?

A)  You need to go to Probate Court:

  • When someone dies.
  • When someone becomes incapable.
  • If you believe someone has abused a position of trust.
  • To adopt a child.
  • To appoint Guardians for those with special needs
  • To help those with mental illness or substance abuse.


Q) Why do you think you’re best qualified to be Judge of Probate?

A) EXPERIENCE! Legal experience, public service experience, and life experience.

Legal: I’ve practiced law for over 35 years, handling a wide variety of matters, including civil and criminal law as well as family law matters, real estate, planning and zoning work, corporate law and trusts and estates.  I have received certification as a trained mediator from Quinnipiac Law School as well as certification as an arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association.  For the past 25 years I have had the judicial role of Due Process Hearing Officer for Norwalk Public Schools, presiding over more than 1000 hearings.

Public service: Twenty-eight years in elective office representing the people of Norwalk and Wilton, including six years as a member of the Norwalk Board of Education, and 22 years as State Representative of the 142nd General Assembly District, which covered the towns of Norwalk, Wilton and New Canaan.

Life: Husband, father, grandfather, son, and brother.  I have a large and beautiful family.  Family, both yours and mine, is the most important thing in our lives.  I am a lifelong Norwalk resident who attended Norwalk public schools as did all three of our children.  I have been married to Barbara for the past 35 years and, with her, have raised three amazing kids.  We recently became grandparents to our beautiful grandson.  I am blessed to have had my father into his 95th year and still have my amazing mother at 93 years young.  I have had the privilege of living and working in Norwalk and Wilton and being the beneficiary of its diversity.  I have volunteered for numerous charitable, religious and educational organizations both in Norwalk and Wilton, including the Side by Side Charter School, and as a coach for the Wilton YMCA Special Olympics Bocce team.  Over 60 years of living a full and active life, I know and understand the diverse people of Norwalk and Wilton and would be honored to serve as their Judge of Probate.


Larry Cafero


Larry Cafero is a candidate for Judge of Probate of the Norwalk/Wilton Probate Court, endorsed by the Republican and Independent Parties.


Tom keegan October 6, 2018 at 8:36 am

our Judge of Probate should be a man of integrity , compassion and honesty. He should be trustworthy and beyond reproach. Larry Cafero possesses all of these qualities and more. It is why I will be proudly casting my vote for him on November 6th

Piberman October 6, 2018 at 11:17 am

Just about every old timer whose been here for at least 3 or 4 decades knows about and has met Attorney Larry Cafero. Without a doubt he really does represent the best of Norwalk. Our finest “real public servant”.To those of us who have had to through the Probate Court process the key qualities are compassion and empathy. These are the qualities that define this remarkable Norwalk citizen. It would be unthinkable to imagine there’s any one else that could be an effective Probate Judge. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want to have their family affairs overseen by this thoroughly honorable and decent attorney.

David Heuvelman October 6, 2018 at 7:34 pm

Political advertisement couched as an opinion piece, written by the candidate (maybe). Mr. Cafero your last answer in this op/ed is just an endorsement/advetisesment for the candidate (you) who wrote the whole opinion piece(maybe). Not cool. Just come out and state your case, with your purpose, to get elected. Identify yourself as writing this for yourself (allegedly). Do not treat us to a primer in judicial responsibility only to sell yourself at the end. Wow!…

If you want to write a piece that tells about the responsibilites of a probate court judge and why this is an important role, then by all means please do so. We all need to be better versed in civics. If you want to advertise for yourself, well…do it appropriately.

Nancy, this is not opinion. Please don’t sell it that way.

alan October 9, 2018 at 6:31 pm

Follow the money. What is the compensation structure for a probate judge?
Anything extra on top of a regular salary?
Follow the money…

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