The probate division of the Superior Court handles adoptions; corrections to birth, death, and marriage records; emancipation; guardianship; authorization of nonresident clergy to perform marriages; and probate (proving the validity) of estates, trusts, and wills. There are 14 probate division judges who are elected for four-year terms.
Some legal matters not listed here may fall under the jurisdiction of other Vermont courts. To find information on legal topics not covered here, please visit the Vermont Judiciary's Self-Help web page.
The probate division handles several different kinds of adoptions. All adoption cases are confidential.
Parents by assisted reproduction, such as egg, sperm, or embryo donation or gestational carrier (sometimes called a surrogate), may file a Petition for Birth Order to declare them the parents of the child. The petition may be filed before or after the child is born. 15C V.S.A. § 708.
Until minors become adults, at age 18, they are legally incapable of making contracts or taking other legal actions. Minors are legally subject to the control of their parents. Emancipation releases minors from this control and allows them to make contracts and live independently.
Involuntary guardianship of an adult
If you believe an adult is incapable of managing their personal care, their financial affairs, or both, you may petition the court to appoint a guardian to promote the person's well-being or protect the person's human and civil rights. The court may appoint a total guardian or a limited guardian. In either case, the guardian encourages the person under guardianship to build independence and self-reliance.
Voluntary guardianship of an adult
If you are an adult who needs help managing your own affairs, you may file a petition to ask for the appointment of a guardian.
There are circumstances when a court-appointed guardian is needed to provide for a minor's personal care (custodial guardianship) or protection of their property (financial guardianship), or both.
Legal name changes are necessary only if you want to change your name through an official court order. For non-legally-binding, day-to-day usage or for changes after marriage, an official court order is often unnecessary. To return to your maiden name, for example, the family division can include the change in the final divorce decree. If you do choose to legally change your name, the process is simple. You must file the petition in your county of residence.
There are two types of trusts under the jurisdiction of the probate division of the Vermont Superior Court: testamentary and nontestamentary.
The legislature has established a process to ask the court for an order to protect a child who is not a U.S. citizen. A petition can be filed in the family division or the probate division, and can be filed as a new case, or filed in an existing case.
A “child” is defined as someone who is under 21 and who is not married. The child must have been:
- found to be a dependent of the court, or
- legally committed to a State agency or department or an individual or entity appointed by the court, or
- placed under the custody of a State agency.
You must be able to show:
- The child has suffered from abuse, neglect, abandonment, or similar circumstances and their health, safety, or welfare is in jeopardy.
- The child may not be reunified with one or both parents due to abuse, neglect, abandonment, or a similar circumstance.
- It is not in the best interest of the child to return to their country of origin, their parent’s country of origin, or the country of last habitual residence.
The probate process is a safety measure for the distribution of property when someone dies. The probate division examines the legality of a will. It then oversees the administration of the estate to ensure that the executor or administrator correctly performs their duties, follows laws, and honors final wishes. The probate process also assures payment of debts and converts property titles to the new owners. If there is no will, the probate process establishes the correct distribution of the estate.
A power of attorney is a document which allows you to give another person the authority to handle your financial and personal decisions.
- You can't get a power of attorney over someone: it has to be given to you by the person.
- The person creating the power of attorney must have the legal capacity to understand the authority they are delegating.
- The person with the power of attorney has the authority to do only those things that are given to them.
- The person with the power of attorney must make decisions the way the person giving the authority wants, not the way they would do for themselves.
You can find more information on the vtlawhelp Financial Power of Attorney web page.
An advance directive is a document which lets you plan for your medical care when you can’t make decisions for yourself. An advance directive is sometimes called an advance health care directive, a durable power of attorney for health care, a health care proxy, a living will, or a terminal care document.
You can find more information on the vtlawhelp Medical Decisions: Advance Directives web page.
If you live out of state, there are two ways you can be authorized to perform a marriage in Vermont. If you are at least 18 years old, you can get authorization from the secretary of state to serve as a temporary officiant. Or, if you are a member of the clergy, you can get a certificate from the probate division of the Superior Court.
See 18 V.S.A. § 5144 for more information about who may perform a marriage.
If you need to correct a certificate of marriage or civil union, you may need to get a court order. You can do this through the probate division using the forms and information on the New and Corrected Birth, Death, and Marriage Certificates webpage.
As of July 1, 2019, corrections, completions or amendments of a certificate of birth or death must be submitted to the State Registrar’s Office of Vital Records. For the correct forms and information on how to do this please visit the Office of Vital Records’ website.
If the Office of Vital Records denies your request, you can file an appeal with the probate division. See the Appeals of State Registrar’s Denial of Application to Issue a New, Corrected or Amended Birth or Death Certificate web page for more information.
Applications for a new, corrected, amended or delayed birth certificate, or for a corrected or amended death certificate should be submitted to the State Registrar of Vital Records.
If the State Registrar denies your application, you may appeal the decision by filing a Notice of Appeal in the Probate Division of the Superior Court.
The Vermont Legislature sets most of the fees charged for services provided by the Judiciary. The Justices of the Supreme Court establish rules to govern the allowance of fees not specified by law. Motions or petitions filed by one party at one time shall be assessed one fee.
Birth, death and marriage certificate forms (new, amendments, and corrections)
- Appeal of State Registrar's decision forms (regarding birth and death certificates)
Asking to Waive Fees
See the Application to Waive Filing Fees and Service Costs web page for information and forms.
Probate Division - General Motion