Kevin O'Grady, the probate judge in Westport and Weston, has decided to resign, citing declining health that has caused him to be off the job for more than a year-and- a-half. He had been on medical leave since August 2011.

O'Grady informed local and state officials of his decision to step down in a pair of letters dated last Wednesday.

"I am afraid my health has continued to deteriorate, and it would now appear that I will not be able to return to my post," he said in his letter to Paul Knierim, the state Probate Court administrator.

During O'Grady's absence, Fairfield's probate judge, Daniel Caruso, has served as the interim judge in Westport and Weston.

O'Grady also said that he had been "honored" to serve.

"It has been my absolute privilege to work with you, Judge Caruso, (Milford-Orange Probate) Judge (Beverly) Streit-Kefalas and all of my other colleagues on the Probate Court bench," he added. "I am proud to have been part of such a fine group of individuals."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy will determine whether a special election will be held to choose a successor to serve out the remainder of O'Grady's term, according to Tom Gaffey, chief counsel in the Office of the Probate Court Administrator. O'Grady's term runs until January 2015.

In the meantime, Caruso will continue as the interim judge for Westport and Weston. Caruso also has expressed willingness to serve out the rest of O'Grady's term, if a special election is not held.

"I'm very sad for him," Caruso said Monday. "I know how much he loved the court, but I also understand how difficult it must be, principally in terms of health. He has my prayers, as well as those of many others in town. Kevin's a great guy. He cared a lot for these towns and for its people. I think we're losing a great public servant."

In a statement released Monday, First Selectman Gordon Joseloff also expressed his support for O'Grady.

"It is with deep regret that I learn of Judge O'Grady's intention to resign," Joseloff said. "He has served the residents of Westport and Weston not only with distinction, but with genuine compassion as he went about his official duties. I wish him well as he battles his health issues."

O'Grady, a Democrat, was in his fourth term as the Westport-Weston probate district's judge, having served since 1999. He was last re-elected in November 2010, when he defeated his Republican opponent, Jacob "Jan" Bryniczka, with 57 percent of the vote.

"As probate judge, he showed genuine care, compassion and interest," said Jim Ezzes, the Democratic Town Committee chairman, who has known O'Grady for more than 20 years. "He was a guy who really brought an extraordinary amount of sensitivity to his role."

Connecticut probate courts' jurisdiction covers a range of responsibilities, which include:

Probating wills and the administration of estates

Overseeing testamentary and living trusts

Determining title to real and personal property

Interpreting the meaning of wills and trusts

Appointing guardians for individuals with intellectual disability

Appointing conservators of the person and the estate of incapable individuals

Committing individuals suffering from mental illness, alcoholism or drug addiction to an appropriate facility

Removing unfit parents as guardians of their children

Granting adoptions; 203-255-4561, ext. 118;