State Courts Having Probate Jurisdiction

Probate and related matters are the subject of state laws. The legal subject matters falling within the generic category of “probate” vary from state to state. The probate courts are, in some states, separate courts, with jurisdiction limited to such legal subject matters as the particular states assign to the probate courts. In most states, probate subject matter jurisdiction is vested in the courts of general trial jurisdiction as a division within the courts. For example, in the District of Columbia, there are no separate probate courts. Probate issues are handled in the superior courts – the general jusrisdiction trial courts in DC. Each superior court in DC has a number of divisions; e.g. criminal, domestic, civil, and probate.

Probate courts, whether separate courts in a state or divisions within the general jurisdiction trial courts, all generally handle: most if not all matters involving the administration of the estates of deceased persons, including the appointment and monitoring of executors of will and estate administrators; most if not all matters involving the appointment and supervision and monitoring of guardians (of the person and/or estate) and conservators for incapcitated adults and minors; and most if not all matters involving the involuntary treatment of persons with mental illnesses and/or addictive diseases or substance abuse. In some states, probate courts handle adoptions, domestic relations cases, and juvenile cases. In addition, in many states, the probate courts hanlde various administrative duties, such as issuing marriage licenses, weapons carry licenses, and automobile tags, administering oaths to and approving the bonds of elected county officials, supervising the elections at the county level, etc.

NCPJ has prepared a table outlining the courts of each state in which probate jurisdiction is exercised.