This is a study of contemporary American legislation concerning probate courts, with particular reference to their jurisdiction over the probate of wills and the administration of estates of deceased persons.

By the term "probate courts" is meant all judicial tribunals which exercise such jurisdiction. As will subsequently appear, they are otherwise variously designated as surrogates' courts, orphans' courts, prerogative courts, courts of ordinary and county courts. In one state all the functions of probate and administration are exercised by courts of chancery. In other states, chancery has concurrent jurisdiction over many of these functions. Sometimes the register of probate exercises some of the functions of a probate court, while an orphans' or other court acts in other probate matters. Again, two separate courts may each exercise; a part of the functions of a probate court. In one group of states, probate and administration is merely a separate function of the trial court of general jurisdiction or of its judge. But, regardless of its name, every tribunal which exercises jurisdiction over the probate of wills or the administration of decedents' estates, from its initiation to the time of final distribution, is within the scope of this study.