Probate court is a type of court where cases having to do with estates, wills and guardianship are handled, according to Investopedia. Other types of cases commonly held in probate court include conservatorships and issues with the mentally ill.
Also known as surrogate courts, probate courts arbitrate will disputes, adjudge will validity and consider claims, such as demands for debt payments, relating to the estate of a deceased person, explains LegalMatch. Additionally, these courts regulate the conduct of estate administrators, enforce wills executed in accordance with the law and oversee the distribution of a deceased person's possessions.
Probate courts also handle intestacy, situations in which individuals pass away without a will, and adjudge the inheritance rights of orphans, explains LegalMatch. For this reason, they are colloquially referred to as orphan courts or courts of the ordinary. Information and evidence that may be required when filing cases with probate courts includes copies of the deceased person's will, a record of any outstanding claims, names of beneficiaries and a list of disputed property.
State laws regulate the operations of these courts, explains FindLaw. Probate laws may thus vary across states. For this reason, prospective estate planners should either be familiar with probate laws in their state of residence or seek the help of an attorney. The process of adjudicating issues surrounding estate planning through a probate court takes a considerable amount of time and money. However, despite the expense, the process may bring a measure of stability to families embroiled in a dispute.
When wills are contested, the probate court makes the final decision when it comes to the outcome, as explained by Investopedia. First, the court determines the validity of the document, and then it makes a decision on the outcome. These decisions are made based on the mental status of the individual contesting the will, the instructions contained within the will and other laws in the state or jurisdiction.