Maine’s Probate Courts were established in 1820 by the Maine Constitution. These are specialized courts with limited and exclusive jurisdiction over probate matters such as trusts, estates, protective orders, adoptions, guardianships, name changes, conservatorships and mental health cases where involuntary commitment is an issue. Probate Courts do not use juries, cases are heard by one of the 16 Probate Court judges in the state. Each county has one court and one judge. These judges are elected and serve part-time.
Probate Courts handle all probate matters both formal and informal including name changes, adoptions, and other issues affecting minors and adults. Cases heard in Probate Court may be appealed directly to the Supreme Court. Although much of Maine’s court system has been merged to unify the judicial branch, Probate Courts remain a stand-alone division. This is due to the specialized nature of these cases and how they affect families.
The Maine Judicial Branch website has a lot of helpful resources for anyone using the Probate Court system. One link they share is for Pine Tree Legal a partnership website that guides families through the probate process and offers helpful guides and tips. Additionally, the main judicial site provides all the forms necessary to file in Probate Court. It also includes e-filing options along with support and contact information for court clerks and other Probate Court staff to help with questions and concerns.
They also have an entire page devoted to helping patrons change their name after divorce or for other reasons. Again, this resource is provided by their partner, Pine Tree Legal. Something simple like a name change can actually be complicated when dealing with the courts, and this resource makes it easy to understand, and provides all the details of what paperwork is needed and how the process works.