Probate: A Family Affair

Probate always has to do with the family. Naturally, most people leave their assets to their family when they pass away, so that they can keep heirlooms within the household and keep estates in the family name. It is very important that you know where your family members reside, so that they will be easy to locate when they inherit your fortune. While probate deals with the family and dividing a decedent's inheritance among the many qualified parties, the court can also work with other "family" cases such as guardianships, adoptions, legitimations, and marriage licenses.

First, a probate court can help you with a guardianship. Normally parents will provide an official document which names godparents that would take care of your child in the event of your passing. While chances are that the children will spend their years as a minor in their parent's homes, life is never certain. Should a tragedy strike, these children would be left in the hands of another. At this point, the godparents, or another determined and qualified individual, would assume all legal and financial responsibility of the children. A guardian must be over 18, and is often carefully evaluated by the government.

Once the guardianship is approved by the court, the process becomes entirely official. Often the court will hire a social worker to further investigate the guardian, and make sure that the children are being looked after. Guardians must file reports and accountings that will be submitted to the probate court for review, and will need to uphold their rights and protections and care for the child in a trustworthy manner in order to receive the guardianship rights. An adult ward is given the right to be represented by an attorney in probate court.

Probate courts also deal with adoptions, especially if you aim to adopt the child of a deceased family member. In some states, all adoptions must be approved by a probate court before they become official. This goes for international adoptions, national adoptions, local adoptions, and family adoptions. The person wishing to adopt must submit to a spontaneous investigation by a social worker. This investigation helps to prove the potential parents' ability to care for children. Once the probate court has reviewed documentation and approved the adoption, it will become official and all legal and financial responsibility regarding the child is transferred to the new parents.

As well, probate court can issue marriage licenses. Many times in movies, a couple runs to the court house for a quick wedding ceremony by a judge. In reality, it takes a bit longer to obtain your marriage license, but the legally binding documents are issued by the probate court. In many states there is a five-day waiting period, which is active unless the court determines that it should be waived. The couple must fill out a marriage application in order to obtain and sign their license. In many states the court issues over 100,000 marriage licenses each day.

Probate court also declares legitimizations. These occur when a father wishes to legitimize a child not born in wedlock. In order to do so, the father must petition the legitimization in the probate court. If the legitimization is approved, the child will receive all the rights of a child born in wedlock, including the right to inherit from a parent. Legitimization is very important if a parent has a large fortune that he wishes to leave an illegitimate son or daughter in the future. If you need to clear up a family issue in the court, contact the probate court in your jurisdiction.