A probate court follows procedures that are a bit different from those utilized in both the general civil court and the criminal court. If you need to bring a case in probate court--filing a will after a family member dies, for example--you need to familiarize yourself with these procedures. Specifically, in regard to pursuing a probate case you must understand how to file a petition with probate court. The petition is the official document that starts a probate case in the first instance.
Obtain a form petition for probate from the court clerk. In most jurisdictions around the United States there is a unified court system. In other words, all courts--criminal, civil, family, probate and so forth--are part of a common system with one clerk's office. However, there remain some locations that do not have this type of unified system. In such a situation, there is a specialized probate court clerk's office.
Complete the form petition. A petition form from the court clerk typically is easy to complete. Moreover, the court clerk can provide probate court guidelines to assist you in completing the petition for probate.
Add a "verification" to a probate petition. The Uniform Probate Code (and similar laws) requires a petition filed in probate court be verified. Verification language reads:
"The undersigned hereby verifies on her oath that the above and foregoing petition for probate is true and correct to the best of her knowledge and belief."
Execute the probate petition (including the verification) in front of a notary public. The law requires that this type of court document be notarized.
Contact the court clerk's office and find out the fee charged to file a petition for probate. The fee varies from one probate court to another.
Go to the court clerk's office with the petition for probate and keep at least one copy for your records.
Give the original petition and the filing fee to a staff member from the clerk's office. Provide at least one extra copy to be "filed stamped" for your records. The clerk places a time stamp on the document that indicates when you filed the petition for probate.
- Probate cases usually are complex undertakings. Therefore, when it comes to filing a petition with the probate court and pursuing any type of probate case, your interests likely are best served with experienced legal representation. The state and local bar associations maintain directories of attorneys that practice probate law. Contact information for these organizations is available through the American Bar Association.
- "A Practitioner's Guide to Probate;" Keith Biggs; 2009
- "The Complete Probate Guide;" Martin M. Shenkman; 1999
- Superior Court of California--Self Service Center: Probate Court
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