2007 Winter, Pg. 18. The Legacy of Probate Administrative Judge John R. Maher.

AuthorBy Attorney Charles A. DeGrandpre

New Hampshire Bar Journal


2007 Winter, Pg. 18.

The Legacy of Probate Administrative Judge John R. Maher

New Hampshire Bar Journal Winter 2007, Volume 47, No. 4 Judicial Legacies The Legacy of Probate Administrative Judge John R. Maher By Attorney Charles A. DeGrandpre Editor's Note: Attorney DeGrandpre was asked to write this article on the occasion of the retirement on January 1, 2007, of Probate Court Administrative Judge John R. Maher.

The contributions of Probate Judge John R. Maher to New Hampshire's probate practice and procedure are significant and will be long-lasting. His 23-year tenure as a probate judge and then as the administrative judge of the probate courts came at a time of stress for our probate court system. In those years, the Supreme Court issued the new standards for compensation of executors and attorneys in probate matters in the Rolfe Case(fn1), confronted the aftershocks of the Fairbanks embezzlements, and suffered the stress, as did all our courts, of the impeachment proceedings at the turn of the new century.

Throughout it all, our probate court system has become better, more streamlined and uniform, and more user-friendly to both private citizens and practicing attorneys. It was Judge Maher's vision that the probate procedure and administration of estates needed to be substantially simplified and improved, or else the system would eventually be bypassed by the use of funded revocable trusts. And he succeeded in streamlining the probate process.

He engineered a compromise between the superior and probate courts, and in 1993, the Omnibus Justice Act(fn2) granting exclusive jurisdiction to the probate courts over certain matters, was made effective. At the local level, he issued Administrative Bulletins and Circulars to unify and clarify probate practices throughout the state. By the enactment and subsequent broadening of the waiver of administration procedures, he made the probate system much simpler for the majority of the estates that are left in the hands of surviving spouses or children, and when they are the primary beneficiaries of the estate.

He lobbied for and obtained more full-time probate judgeships, thereby making more room for the trial of contested probate cases. He convened an informal advisory committee of probate attorneys, paralegals and trust officers who, on an...

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