In the US, and specifically New York state, what is the difference between a probate court and a surrogate court?

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    Does New York actually have anything with the name "Probate Court"? AFAIK probate cases are handled in Surrogate's Court there. Sep 23, 2022 at 1:48
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    Oh, are you saying that in NYS, all "Probate Courts" (and all the typical functions thereof) are called "Surrogate's Courts"? That might explain my confusion! Sep 23, 2022 at 2:05

1 Answer 1


A "probate court", generically, is a court that handles probate cases.

In many jurisdictions, the official name of the court that has this role is simply "Probate Court".

New York State apparently thought that naming scheme was too straightforward, so in that state, the court that handles probate cases (and also adoptions) has instead the unusual name of "Surrogate's Court". I don't know why this is, but it's probably historical. Also oddly, this court handles adoptions as well.

New York does not have any court with the official name of "Probate Court".

  • Thanks and this explains my uneducated confusion! Sep 23, 2022 at 12:11
  • FWIW, New York State has lots of non-intuitive court names. The New York State Family Court doesn't have jurisdiction over divorce cases (which are reserved for the New York State Supreme Court). The New York State Supreme Court is a trial court of general jurisdiction with an intermediate appellate court "appellate division" that is not the highest appellate court in the state. The highest level of appellate court in the state is called the Court of Appeals, which is what most states call their intermediate level appellate court that hears appeals of right from the highest level trial courts.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 23, 2022 at 19:21

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