Estate planning attorneys often advise clients to create plans that will avoid the necessity of having to go before the probate court. Though these courts, known as Surrogate’s Courts in New York state, hear cases about wills and estates, they also hear numerous other issues. Here’s a brief list of some of the common issues a probate court might hear.
Probate courts are responsible for determining who should become the legal guardian over a child or an incapacitated adult. However, once the court has made its determination, it also maintains the ability to change the guardianship if the need arises. The court may also appoint a conservator, someone who looks after a physically incapacitated person or the person’s property.
Probate courts will also hear cases when disputes arise over a person’s medical care. If an incapacitated person leaves behind no advance medical directive, or leaves behind an unclear directive, the court may be asked to resolve the issue of who gets to make medical decisions on the person’s behalf.
When people want to legally change their names, they must often appear before probate court to formally recognize the change. The court can also order changes to, for example, a birth certificate that contains mistakes.
A probate court is responsible for not only determining if a person’s will complies with all state requirements, but it will also hear disputes arising out of the Will. The probate court must also supervise any estate administration, appoint executors, and require trustees of testamentary trusts to provide periodic reports.