probate court

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A probate court is a court of limited jurisdiction that hears matters surrounding a person's death. For example, probate courts oversee the distribution of dead peoples' assets according to their wills and direct the distribution of dead peoples' assets if they die without a will.

Some probate courts also hear petitions to declare people incompetent and oversee guardians or conservators. Other jurisdictions leave these matters to family courts.

Probate courts are governed by state and local law. Some jurisdictions have surrogate courts instead of probate courts.

See Estate Planning; Estates and Trusts; State probate laws.