Maine Court Records
How Does the Maine Probate Court Work?
Maine Probate Courts sit without a jury and have jurisdiction over specialized matters such as:
- Estates of deceased and missing persons
- Trusts (both formal and informal)
- Legal name changes for adults and minors
- Guardianship (For incapacitated adults and minor children)
- Protective proceedings
- Other family matters
Maine Probate Courts have jurisdiction in equity, concurrent with the Superior Courts, in all cases and matters on the administration of the estates of deceased persons, wills, and trusts which are created by will or other written instrument.
There are two forms of proceedings in the Probate Court; probate and civil proceedings. A probate proceeding is a proceeding within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Probate Court. Probate proceedings may be informal or informal. An informal probate proceeding is a proceeding for the informal probate of a will or the informal appointment of a personal representative brought under the authority of Article III of the Probate Code. All other probate proceedings are categorized as formal probate proceedings. A civil proceeding is a proceeding within the concurrent jurisdiction of the Probate Court.
There are 16 Probate Courts and judges in Maine, one for each county. Judges are in the Probate Court typically serve part-time and serve four-year terms. The judges are elected by voters in partisan elections and begin their terms on the first day of January, after the general election. In cases of a mid-term vacancy, an interim judge may be appointed by the Governor. The appointee must be a member of the same political party as the judge who previously served on the court. A permanent replacement is elected at the next general election under Maine’s Constitution. Maine Probate judges or individuals seeking election to the office of a Probate judge may engage in any political activity that is lawful for a candidate for any other elected county office or an incumbent elected county official.
Probate Courts are under the county jurisdiction and not the state court system. On matters of law, decisions of the Probate Court may be appealed to the Maine Supreme Court.
All oaths taken by personal representatives, trustees, guardians, conservators, or any persons during the proceedings in a Probate Court, or to perpetuate the evidence of the publication of any order of notice, are administered by the judge, register of probate, or any notary public. In a proceeding involving guardianship, adoption, change of name, or another matter of custody or parental rights on a minor child, the presiding probate judge requires all parties to disclose whether they know of:
- Any interim or final order in effect concerning custody or any parental rights related to the minor child;
- Any custody or other parental rights proceeding concerning the minor child currently filed or pending before any Maine court or any court in another state, including the District Court; or
- Any other related action currently filed or pending before any Maine court or any court in another state, including the District Court.
Suppose in a matter before the Probate Court related to a minor child, a probate judge discover a proceeding involving custody or other parental rights on the child is pending in the District Court. In that case, the probate judge will take appropriate action and facilitate a transfer of the matter to the District Court.
Persons interested in accessing case information for matters handled by Maine Probate Courts may find such online. The search tool on the Maine Probate website allows users to search by providing the case number or one of the last/business, first, or middle names. The tool provides a county filter option for users to narrow down the search results by selecting the county where the Probate Court is located. On the results page, select the button beside the case number field corresponding to the case in question to view the case information. To obtain actual court records, contact the respective court from the location below: