UNION COUNTY PROBATE COURT
Probate courts existed in the Northwest Territory prior to Ohio’s statehood. They had authority in probate, testamentary, and guardianship cases, although the probate judge and two common pleas court judges issued all final judgments. In 1802, Ohio’s first constitution abolished separate probate courts and transferred their authority to the common pleas courts. Separate probate courts reappeared in 1851, when Ohio drafted a new constitution. This gave the probate court the powers to grant marriage licenses and control land sales by appointed executors, administrators, and guardians. As a result of a 1912 constitutional amendment, county voters can decide by referendum whether or not to combine the probate court with the court of common pleas, which they have decided not to do in Union County.
Union County Courthouse - Fall 1883
The probate court has original jurisdiction in the settlement of estates. The court held limited jurisdiction in minor criminal offenses from 1851 to 1932. The probate judge maintained a permanent record of births and deaths from 1867 to 1908. Since the 1850s, the court has had jurisdiction over the appointment of guardians for minors and the mentally ill; the judge can also commit the mentally ill to institutional care. The probate court exercised jurisdiction in naturalization proceedings in the last half of the nineteen century from 1860 until 1906, when the federal government assumed this power. The probate judge serves a six year term and must be a licensed attorney who has practice law for at least six years prior to election.