WHAT IS PROBATE AND WHAT IS PROBATION?
People are often confused about the difference between Probate (as in Wills) and Probation (as in being release from jail with conditions). Each day, people mistakenly call the Probate Court when in fact they mean to be calling their Probation officer. I can understand people’s confusion. They sound similar. However, the only real similarity is that both have their origins in Latin. Their practical meanings are not related.
The English noun “Probate” derives directly from the Latin verbs probo and probare, which means to try, test, prove, and examine. The probate process itself means that the Will must be proved before the court. In the olden days, a paragraph in Latin was actually written by scribes within the Will, commencing with the words Probatum identifying that the Will was written in front of a respectable person. The earliest known usage of the English word “Probate” was in 1463, defined as “the official proving of a will.”
The origin of the word “Probation” is quite different. Probation derives from the Latin word probatio which means “a trying, inspection, or examination.” This definition makes sense. The concept of Probation was developed by John Augustus, a philanthropist, who was looking for concepts to test the rehabilitation of criminals. Probation literally means the testing of behavior.
Most importantly, each of these processes involves a completely different court. The probate court addresses issues involving probate and the admission of Wills. The criminal court addresses issues involving the conditions of Probation.