Law Day Series – Orphans’ Court? I’m not an orphan!

In connection with the Law Library’s celebration of Law Day, we will be publishing a series of eight posts this month that focus on the basics of the Maryland court system and legal research.

Orphans’ Court” often confuses people because its name is a shortened version of the historic London Court for Widows and Orphans, but the court is not for orphans! Instead, the 24 Orphans’ Courts (one in each Maryland county and the City of Baltimore) are specialized courts that deal with matters of probate, the administration of estates (note that not every estate will involve the court), and the guardianship of minors. Three Orphans’ Court judges sit in each county, except Harford County and Montgomery County, where Circuit Court judges sit as Orphan’s Court Judges.

The State of Maryland has two types of probate: administrative and judicial probate. The Orphans’ Court deals with judicial probate, which is usually contested wills. (Administrative probate is usually for uncontested wills and is handled by the Office of the Register of Wills.) Judicial probate is generally the process and administration of an estate through the court system. To learn more about estate administration and probate in Maryland, check out the Maryland People’s Law Library articles on this topic.

If you want to learn more about what the Orphans’ Court does, check out the Frequently Asked Questions section on the Orphans’ Court webpage. In addition, you can find a directory of Orphans’ Court judges here.

Note that the Orphans’ Court is separate from the Office of the Register of Wills that, among other responsibilities, handles the administrative probate process (as opposed to the judicial process through the Orphans’ Court). To learn more about the Office of the Register of Wills, check out their website.

Stay tuned for the next post in our Law Day Series, which will provide a detailed comparison between the District Court and the Circuit Court!


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