What Is Probate Court?
Probate court also referred to as a surrogate court, is where estates of deceased persons are decided. Even in situations with a Will, and with all the heirs known and present, a Will has to be deemed valid by a probate court judge before the executor can proceed to settle the estate. In intestate estates, the judge will review the submissions of potential heirs at law and rule on their entitlement.
Probate Genealogy Example #1
John Doe has died with no Will. His wife predeceased him, they had no children, and John has no siblings. His first cousin Jane is a potential heir. She is the daughter of John’s mother’s brother, thereby making her a maternal first cousin. Jane knew John and put forward a claim to his estate. Jane is John’s only maternal cousin, however, he also has some cousins on his father’s side. These paternal cousins will be heirs to a degree equal to Jane. She will need a genealogy report to prove her relationship to John, as well as John’s relationship with his paternal cousins. She will not only have to prove that she is the only maternal cousin, but also trace and locate the paternal cousins, about whom she knows nothing, but with whom she will need to share the estate. For this, she may well need the services of a probate genealogist.
Probate Genealogy Example #2
Mary Green has died with no Will. She was not married and had no children. Mary’s parent moved to Canada from the United Kingdom before she was born. She was an only child and had no cousins living in Canada. Mary’s mother’s sister had moved to the United States. She has died but her son Thomas Blue is still alive. Thomas is contacted by a genealogist in Canada and informed he might be eligible to inherit Mary’s estate. Thomas however, never knew Mary. In fact, he has never heard of her.
In order to get to this stage, the genealogist had to find who was eligible for Mary’s estate. Thomas did not know her, so he could not put in the claim himself. The genealogist looked back at Mary’s family history. They researched records of her parent’s lives and found her maternal aunt. They found records of her aunt’s immigration to the United States as well as her marriage, and the birth of her son Thomas. They determined that Thomas is the only eligible relative on either Mary’s mother or father’s side. The genealogist then tracked down Thomas, made contact with him, and informed him of his inheritance. They will now help Thomas through the complicated process of claiming Mary’s estate.
Probate Genealogy Example #3
Henry Apple has died with no will. Henry had a successful business and leaves behind a considerable fortune. He was single and had no children. Henry’s father had been married multiple times and had children from two of his previous marriages. These are Henry’s half-siblings and his closest blood relations. However, these siblings had lost contact with Henry’s father years before Henry was born and he never knew of them. They were older than Henry and died before he did, but they both have sons and daughters. Though he did not know them these people are Henry’s nieces and nephews, are heirs to his estate. One of these nephews, Jim Grape, is contacted by a genealogist. He is informed that he, his siblings and his cousins are heirs to Henry’s estate. Jim has never heard of Henry so the genealogist familiarizes him with his family tree and deceased uncle. They will now begin the process of claiming the estate.