As you take whatever steps that are necessary to avoid probate in Connecticut (which seems to be a mild passion for many of my clients) you should keep in mind that the probate process for "small" probate estates is pretty quick and straightforward.
"Small" is, of course, a relative term. As far as the State legislature is concerned, your estate is small if your probate assets are under $40,000. "Probate assets" are assets that are solely in the name of the decedent and do not have a designated beneficiary. So, joint assets and things like life insurance policies, annuities, 401K's, IRA's, POD (payable-on-death) accounts, etc. are generally not probate assets.
Please note that the threshold amount for "small" probate was $20,000, but that was increased to $40,000 in 2007.
Generally speaking, if it's a small estate you only need to file the following with the probate court: (1) the original will, (2) an affidavit confirming that you are not "probating" the will, (3) an "affidavit in lieu of administration" , (4) an original death certificate, (5) a copy of the paid funeral bill, or a statement of the outstanding balance, and (4) an estate tax return listing everything that was in the decedent's name (both probate AND non-probate assets) so that the Court can determine if any estate tax is due.
If there is no will then the remaining funds will be distributed in accordance with the laws of intestacy, which is to say that it generally goes to the next-of-kin under Connecticut law.
If there is a will and the distribution instructions are not consistent with the laws of intestacy then you can still keep it simple if all the heirs waive their right to contest the will. The Court will then simply order distribution pursuant to the will's instructions.
Of course, if the heirs aren't pleased with the proceedings for some reason, then things will probably get pretty complicated. In all likelihood, the simple process is out the window and you're unfortunately looking at a full-blown probate process.
If you have some time on your hands and you're not intimidated by judicial forms and some paper-pushing then you can probably tackle a "small" probate process on your own without legal help. Otherwise, it probably makes financial sense to simply hire an experienced probate attorney who can wrap up the process as quickly as possible.
DISCLAIMER: This blog does not offer legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, consult with a lawyer instead of a blog.