History Of The Probate Court
The term "probate" comes from the Latin word probatio, meaning "to prove," wherein matters in early English religious courts were proven before an ecclesiastical judge. Early American probate courts may be traced back to English Courts of Chancery and ecclesiastical, or religious courts, which had jurisdiction over the probate of wills, administration of estates, and guardianships.
The first probate court in the United States was established in Massachusetts in 1784. Similar courts were subsequently established in other states under the name of surrogate, orphan courts, or courts of the ordinary. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 provided for the first probate judge and court in the Ohio Territory. Under the first Ohio Constitution written in 1802, the court of common pleas had exclusive jurisdiction of probate matters. The Constitution of 1851 removed probate matters from the jurisdiction of common pleas courts and created in each county a separate probate court. Subsequent amendments to the Constitution in 1912, 1951, 1968, and 1973, and changes in the codified law in 1932 and 1976, have made the probate court what it is today: a special division of the court of common pleas. Each of Ohio's 88 counties has a probate division of its court of common Pleas.
The money to operate the probate court is provided by the general fund of the county in which the court is located. However, the court returns to the general fund substantial monies through collection of fees and costs. A charge collected with the issuance of each marriage license allows Ohio probate courts to contribute over a million dollars annually to the Fund for Battered Spouses.
Jurisdiction Of The Court
The Ohio Revised Code places over two hundred separate duties upon the probate court. Those duties range from issuing marriage licenses to overseeing testamentary trusts valued in millions of dollars.
Judge Beverly K. McGookey is one of three judges within the General Division of the Erie County Common Pleas Court.