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A probate court (sometimes called a surrogate court) is a
court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of justice in Civil law (common law), civil, C ...
that has competence in a
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin 'law' + 'declaration') is the legal term for the legal authority granted to a legal entity to enact justice. In federations like the United States, areas of jurisdiction apply to local, state, and federal levels. Jur ...
to deal with matters of
probate Probate is the judicial process whereby a will is "proved" in a court of law and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased, or whereby the estate is settled according to the laws of intestacy in the sta ...
and the administration of estates. In some jurisdictions, such courts may be referred to as Orphans' Courts or courts of ordinary. In some jurisdictions probate court functions are performed by a chancery court or another court of equity, or as a part or division of another court. Probate courts administer proper distribution of the
asset In financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned or controlled by a business or an economic entity. It is anything (tangible or intangible) that can be used to produce positive economic value. Assets represent value of ownership that c ...
s of a decedent (one who has died), adjudicates the validity of wills, enforces the provisions of a valid will (by issuing the grant of probate), prevents
malfeasance Misfeasance, nonfeasance, and malfeasance are types of failure to discharge public obligations existing by common law, custom (law), custom, or statute. The Carta de Logu caused Eleanor of Arborea to be remembered as one of the first lawmakers ...
by
executor An executor is someone who is responsible for executing, or following through on, an assigned task or duty. The feminine form, executrix, may sometimes be used. Overview An executor is a legal term referring to a person named by the maker of a ...
s and administrators of estates, and provides for the equitable distribution of the assets of persons who die
intestate Intestacy is the condition of the estate (law), estate of a person who dies without having in force a valid Will and testament, will or other binding declaration. Alternatively this may also apply where a will or declaration has been made, but ...
(without a valid will), such as by granting a grant of administration giving judicial approval to the
personal representative In common law jurisdictions, a personal representative or legal personal representative is a person appointed by a court to administer the estate of another person. If the estate being administered is that of a deceased person, the personal repres ...
to administer matters of the estate. In contested matters, the probate court examines the authenticity of a will and decides who is to receive the deceased person's property. In a case of an
intestacy Intestacy is the condition of the estate (law), estate of a person who dies without having in force a valid Will and testament, will or other binding declaration. Alternatively this may also apply where a will or declaration has been made, but ...
, the court determines who is to receive the deceased's property under the law of its jurisdiction. The probate court will then oversee the process of distributing the deceased's assets to the proper beneficiaries. A probate court can be petitioned by interested parties in an estate, such as when a
beneficiary A beneficiary (also, in trust law, ''cestui que use'') in the broadest sense is a natural person or other legal entity who receives money or other employee benefit, benefits from a benefactor (law), benefactor. For example, the beneficiary of a lif ...
feels that an estate is being mishandled. The court has the authority to compel an executor to give an account of their actions. In some jurisdictions (e.g.
Texas Texas (, ; Spanish language, Spanish: ''Texas'', ''Tejas'') is a state in the South Central United States, South Central region of the United States. At 268,596 square miles (695,662 km2), and with more than 29.1 million residents in 2 ...
) probate courts also handle other matters, such as guardianships, trusts, and mental health issues (including the authority to order involuntary commitment to psychiatric facilities and involuntary administering psychiatric medication).


Orphans' Court

An Orphans' Court was an organization established in the
Chesapeake Bay The Chesapeake Bay ( ) is the largest estuary in the United States. The Bay is located in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region and is primarily separated from the Atlantic Ocean by the Delmarva Peninsula (including the parts: the ...
American colonies during
colonization Colonization, or colonisation, constitutes large-scale population movements wherein migrants maintain strong links with their, or their ancestors', former country – by such links, gain advantage over other inhabitants of the territory. When ...
. The major goal of the organization was to protect
orphan An orphan (from the el, ορφανός, orphanós) is a child whose parents have died. In common usage, only a child who has lost both parents due to death is called an orphan. When referring to animals, only the mother's condition is usuall ...
ed children and their right to their deceased family member's estate from claims and against abuses by stepparents and others. Today, at least in
Maryland Maryland ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It shares borders with Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; ...
and in
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania (; (Pennsylvania Dutch language, Pennsylvania Dutch: )), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a U.S. state, state spanning the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic, Northeastern United States, Northeastern, Appa ...
, probate courts are still called Orphans' Courts, for historical reasons, hearing matters involving wills of deceased estates which are contested and supervising estates which are probated judicially.Maryland Courts
About the Orphans' Court


Register of Probate

A Register of Probate is an elected position in some jurisdictions in the United States, such as New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine (part of Massachusetts before 1820). Register of Wills is an elected position in jurisdictions such as Maryland. The Registrar and staff administer the local Probate Court, typically for a given
county A county is a geographic region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in certain modern nations. The term is derived from the Old French ...
, acting partly as public customer service and partly as clerks for the probate judge (who may or may not be elected).


List of probate courts

The following is a partial list of probate courts:


England and Wales England and Wales () is one of the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. It covers the constituent countries England and Wales and was formed by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542. The substantive law of the jurisdiction is Engli ...

* Prerogative court—former * Court of Probate—former *
High Court of Justice The High Court of Justice in London, known properly as His Majesty's High Court of Justice in England, together with the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, Court of Appeal and the Crown Court, are the Courts of England and Wales, Senior Cou ...
Family Division—current


State courts of the

United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

* California Superior Court *
Connecticut Connecticut () is the southernmost state in the New England region of the Northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, New York (state), New York to the west, and Long Island Sound to the ...
Connecticut Probate Courts (a system of 54 probate court districts) *
Delaware Delaware ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Maryland to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and New Jersey and the Atlantic Ocean to its east. The s ...
—Office of Register of Wills *
District of Columbia ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall, United States Capitol, Logan Circle (Washington, D.C.), Logan Circle, Jefferson Memoria ...
Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Probate Division *
Florida Florida is a U.S. state, state located in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States. Florida is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia (U.S. state), Geo ...
Florida Circuit Court, County Comptroller's Office * Georgia—Probate Court formerly known as the Court of Ordinary (judge formally known as ''ordinary'') *
Maryland Maryland ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It shares borders with Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; ...
—County Orphans' Courts,Office of Register of Wills
*
Massachusetts Massachusetts (Massachusett language, Massachusett: ''Muhsachuweesut assachusett writing systems, məhswatʃəwiːsət'' English: , ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous U.S. state, state in the New England ...
Probate and Family Court, Register of Probate *
Michigan Michigan () is a U.S. state, state in the Great Lakes region, Great Lakes region of the Upper Midwest, upper Midwestern United States. With a population of nearly 10.12 million and an area of nearly , Michigan is the List of U.S. states and ...
—County Probate Courts *
Missouri Missouri is a U.S. state, state in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern region of the United States. Ranking List of U.S. states and territories by area, 21st in land area, it is bordered by eight states (tied for the most with Tennessee ...
—conducted by Circuit Courts, some of which have separate probate divisions, Office of Public Administrator *
New Hampshire New Hampshire is a U.S. state, state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Gulf of Maine to the east, and the Canadian province of Quebec t ...
New Hampshire Probate Court *
New Jersey New Jersey is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic States, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York (state), New York; on the ea ...
New Jersey Superior Court The Superior Court is the state court in the U.S. state of New Jersey, with statewide trial and appellate jurisdiction. The New Jersey Constitution of 1947 establishes the power of the New Jersey courts.Jeffrey S. Mandel, New Jersey Appellate Pra ...
, Chancery Division, Probate Part, Surrogate's Court (judges known as ''surrogates''), Surrogate's Office * New YorkNew York Surrogate's Court (judges known as ''surrogates'') *
Ohio Ohio () is a U.S. state, state in the Midwestern United States, Midwestern region of the United States. Of the List of states and territories of the United States, fifty U.S. states, it is the List of U.S. states and territories by area, 34th-l ...
—conducted by Courts of Common Pleas, Family and Probate Divisions, Probate Court *
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania (; (Pennsylvania Dutch language, Pennsylvania Dutch: )), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a U.S. state, state spanning the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic, Northeastern United States, Northeastern, Appa ...
—Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas
Office of Register of Wills
*
Texas Texas (, ; Spanish language, Spanish: ''Texas'', ''Tejas'') is a state in the South Central United States, South Central region of the United States. At 268,596 square miles (695,662 km2), and with more than 29.1 million residents in 2 ...
—see
Judiciary of Texas The structure of the judiciary of Texas is laid out in Article 5 of the Constitution of Texas The Constitution of the State of Texas is the document that establishes the structure and function of the government of the U.S. state of Texas, and ...
; the county court handles probate matters in most instances, but its jurisdiction may overlap with the district court. Also, in ten specific counties the
Texas Legislature The Texas Legislature is the state legislature (United States), state legislature of the US state of Texas. It is a bicameral body composed of a 31-member Texas Senate, Senate and a 150-member Texas House of Representatives, House of Representat ...
has established one or more Probate Courts to handle probate matters, removing them from county or district court jurisdiction. *
Vermont Vermont () is a U.S. state, state in the northeast New England region of the United States. Vermont is bordered by the states of Massachusetts to the south, New Hampshire to the east, and New York (state), New York to the west, and the Provin ...
Probate Courts, one in each of Vermont's 14 counties *
Virginia Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeastern regions of the United States, between the East Coast of the United Stat ...
Virginia Circuit Court


Canada Canada is a country in North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering over , making it the world ...

*
New Brunswick New Brunswick (french: Nouveau-Brunswick, , locally ) is one of the thirteen Provinces and territories of Canada, provinces and territories of Canada. It is one of the three Maritime Canada, Maritime provinces and one of the four Atlantic Canad ...
Probate Court of New Brunswick *
Nova Scotia Nova Scotia ( ; ; ) is one of the thirteen Provinces and territories of Canada, provinces and territories of Canada. It is one of the three Maritime Canada, Maritime provinces and one of the four Atlantic Canada, Atlantic provinces. Nova Scoti ...
Probate Court of Nova Scotia * All other provinces are constitutionally required to process probate through their superior courts as per section 96 of the ''Constitution, 1867''.


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Probate Court Wills and trusts Inheritance Probate courts