Jurisdiction—the probate court
Jurisdiction—the probate court

The following Wills & Probate guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Jurisdiction—the probate court
  • Jurisdiction
  • Non-contentious business


The probate jurisdiction of the courts developed within the Ecclesiastical jurisdiction that had been in force since the 14th century. However, the procedures there were entirely different to those in their sister Courts of Chancery Law and Chancery. In particular, the Ecclesiastical Courts were concerned with:

'… the demands of the law and the conscience of the Court.' (Wyatt v Ingram sub nom Ingram v Wyatt (1832) 3 Hag Ecc 466, 1 LJ Ch 135)

This equitable approach developed to protect the true last wishes of the deceased against their relatives' contrary and self-seeking activities.

Before 1858, jurisdiction to grant or revoke probate of Wills or letters of administration of the estates of deceased persons was vested in some 370 ecclesiastical or secular courts or persons in England and Wales in addition to the Prerogative Courts of Canterbury and York but, as a result of the Court of Probate Act 1857 which came into force on 11 January 1858, the Ecclesiastical Courts lost their jurisdiction to the Courts of Probate and Matrimonial Causes. The Court of Probate Act 1857 established a Principal Probate Registry in London, with jurisdiction throughout England and Wales, and district probate registries with local jurisdiction. In 1862, the first Rules for Contentious Business were introduced, later amended to make it clear that the old method of rolling

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