All states have probate courts that are responsible for hearing certain types of cases. In addition to hearing cases involving wills and estates, probate courts also handle numerous other issues. Though all states have slightly different probate court rules, let’s take a look at some of the more common legal issues you may find on the probate court docket.
Adult and Child Guardians
If a child’s parents die or an adult becomes mentally incapacitated, the probate court has the responsibility of appointing a guardian. Guardians have the legal authority to act on behalf of either a child or an incapacitated adult, each of which is known as a ward. The probate court holds hearings to determine who should be the guardian. It can also replace a guardian who isn’t acting in the ward’s best interests.
Probate court judges also have the ability to issue or modify some official documents. For example, if a baby is born and the parents later discover that there is an error on the birth certificate, the parents can go to a probate court and ask the judge to change the birth certificate information. Probate courts also deal with marriage certificates and name changes.
For single mothers, it’s often very important that the father of the child legally acknowledge his status as father. If the father wants to make such an acknowledgment, he must typically file an acknowledgement with the probate court before he is legally recognized as the child’s father.