Register of probate position remains, but barely

62.9% vote in favor of removing, but two-thirds needed
Dictionary Series: Probate

With only 62.9 percent of voters on Tuesday choosing to eliminate the register of probate position in New Hampshire’s counties — when 66.6 percent of the vote was required — registers of probate will continue to operate as usual until constitutional amendments muster sufficient support to eliminate the office.

“It failed to be adopted, albeit by only a small margin. But a loss is still a loss,” outgoing State Rep. Norman Silber, R-Gilford and a co-sponsor of the change, wrote in an email. “It’s difficult to amend our state Constitution, which is as it should be. At least this year it actually made its way onto the general election ballot.”

This is the sixth or seventh year that state lawmakers have sought to nix the register of probate post, with many Democrat and Republican legislators believing the elected county position is unnecessary and obsolete.

This year, Silber and others, including Anna Brown, director of research at Citizens Count, a voter education nonprofit, believe confusion over the language used on the ballot may have led to its defeat.

Voters also turned down calling a convention to amend the state’s constitution — the second “yes” vote needed — with only 33.9 percent in favor.

“It might have been more helpful for the existing text of the two sections of the constitution to be presented, with the three words ‘register of probate’ crossed through to show that the elimination of those three words was the only change being sought. Or for it to be accompanied by an explanation from the sponsors,” Silber wrote. “When a proposed constitutional amendment is not well presented or well explained, the default position for most voters is to vote ‘No.’ Which is also probably as it should be.”

Alan Glassman, Belknap County’s register of probate, did not respond to requests for comment. Glassman has advocated continuing the position, which he said can reduce the need for people to hire attorneys at their own expense to sort out issues related to estates and guardianships.

Categories: Law