Rhode Island Court Records

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How Does the Rhode Island Probate Court Work?

Established by RIGL 8–9, Rhode Island Probate Courts handle all probate cases in the state. Each Rhode Island Probate Court handles cases only within its territorial jurisdiction. Rhode Island Probate Courts exercise jurisdiction over the following types of cases, according to Section 8–9–9 of the state’s general laws:

  • Probate of wills
  • Adult limited guardianships
  • Conservatorships
  • Administration of estates
  • Minor guardianships
  • Adoption of adults
  • Authorization to sell or mortgage-related property at a private or public sale

Probate Courts also hear matters involving certain trusts, ruling on the related trustees involved. These matters may include removing or replacing the trustee of a trust established under a will or the termination of a trust. Furthermore, Probate Courts may hear cases on name changes of adults that have received convictions for a felony or misdemeanor. 

Probate Courts have concurrent jurisdiction over these cases with the Rhode Island Superior Court. Probate Courts may also hear Superior Court cases that are related to probate matters.

Probate describes the legal and court-administered procedures which take place in the handling of a deceased person’s affairs. Probate procedures may be initiated over a deceased person’s property if there are no clear recipients. Generally, these procedures handle property not passed down by the deceased through one of the following:

  • Right of survivorship
  • A trust established before the person’s death
  • Life insurance payable to a named beneficiary

Although the jurisdiction of a Probate Court is specific, the courts sometimes operate as Municipal Courts. Note that procedures employed by Probate Courts may differ between towns and cities. However, the differences are usually slight.

Generally, Rhode Island Probate Courts are necessary for the following reasons:

  • To collect, guard, and preserve a deceased person’s property and assets
  • To ensure that the estate promptly and properly pays all of the deceased’s taxes, debts, and claims
  • To establish the rightful recipient of the deceased’s property and assets and distribute to these persons accordingly

If the deceased created a will before death, the property may be distributed as the will provides. If the person dies intestate, where there is no will, the Probate Court may decide the proper distribution of the deceased’s assets and property. However, note that Rhode Island Probate Courts may satisfy all taxes, claims, and debts, before distributing the deceased’s assets and property.

The probate judge of each Probate Court must satisfy the following qualifications, as provided by Section 8–9–2.1:

  • Must be admitted to practice law before the Rhode Island Supreme Court
  • Must have been engaged in the active practice of law in the sate

Note that regardless of the above qualifications, the law allows each town or city to add additional qualifications for the probate judges in each jurisdiction. However, these additions may be subject to one or more ordinances in towns or cities.

In some Rhode Island towns, the town council may regularly sit as the Probate Court. In those towns, the town council has the authority to appoint a Probate Court judge. This provision must be made available to any party who requests a probate judge’s presence to hear and determine a probate matter. In some cases, the town council is also responsible for filling any vacancy in the person’s office due to the appointment.  

In towns where the above applies, the town council may appoint a judge annually. However, the appointee shall not sit on any case where the person is interested in the matter, or where the person is a party to the case. Note that the appointee must be a member of the Rhode Island bar.

Whenever the probate judge is unavailable to hear a case for any reason, the town or city council must hear probate cases as if there is no probate judge.

Section 8–9–5 provides specific actions to be taken if a probate judge is not available to hear a case. In Warren town, the town solicitor is authorized to hear cases where the Warren Probate Court judge is unavailable. Note that the court records must describe the exact reason the probate judge is unavailable or disqualified. This may be because of a direct interest in the case, the council’s inability to appoint a judge, or other acceptable reasons.

For the City of Newport, and Cumberland or Smithfield towns, the law requires the Municipal Court judge to handle the case in the probate judge’s absence. If the Municipal Court judge is unavailable, the responsibility falls to the city or town solicitor in either case. The same applies to Hopkinton or West Greenwich towns where one or more deputy probate judges elected by the town council must handle the case. Note that for all replacements, court records must specify the reason why a probate judge is not available to hear the case.

According to Section 33–23–1, persons dissatisfied with Probate Court decisions are allowed to appeal to the Superior Court of the county where the Probate Court is located. The aggrieved party must file a claim of appeal to the Superior Court, in the Probate Court’s clerk’s office. The appellant must also request a certified copy of the claim of appeal after paying the expected filing fees to the clerk. Within 30 days of the Probate Court’s decision, the appellant must file the certified copy of the appeal claim at the Superior Court with jurisdiction over the case. An appeal shall be heard by a trial de novo in the Superior Court.

Persons interested in Probate Court records may visit the court location for more information. Interested persons may also send a written request to the court, with details of the records sought. Requestors who need to contact or visit Rhode Island Probate Courts may use the following information:

Bristol County 

Barrington Probate Court

283 County Road

Barrington, RI 02806

Phone: (401)247–1900 ext. 305

Bristol Probate Court

Bristol Town Hall

10 Court Street

Bristol, RI 02809

Phone: (401) 253–7000

Warren Probate Court

Town Hall

514 Main Street

Warren, RI 02885

Phone: (401) 245–7340

Kent County

Coventry Probate Court

1670 Flat River Road

Coventry, RI 02816

Phone: (401)822–9172

East Greenwich Probate Court

125 Main Street

East Greenwich, RI 02818

Phone: (401) 886–8607

Warwick Probate Court

3275 Post Road

Warwick, RI 02886

Phone: (401) 738–2000

West Warwick Probate Court

1170 Main Street

West Warwick, RI 02893

Phone: (401) 822–9201

West Greenwich Probate Court

280 Victory Highway

West Greenwich, RI 02817

Phone: (401) 392–3800

Newport County

Jamestown Probate Court

93 Narragansett Avenue

Jamestown, RI 02835

Phone: (401)423–7282

Little Compton Probate Court

40 Commons, PO Box 226

Little Compton, RI 02837

Phone: (401)635–4400

Middletown Probate Court

350 East Main Road

Middletown, RI 02842

Phone: (401)847–0009

Newport Probate Court

43 Broadway

Newport, RI 02840

Phone: (401)845–5349

Portsmouth Probate Court

2200 East Main Road

Portsmouth, RI 02871

Phone: (401)683–2101

Tiverton Probate Court

343 Highland Road

Tiverton, RI 02878

401–625–6703

Providence County

Foster Probate Court

181 Howard Hill Road

Foster, RI 02825

Phone: (401)392–9202

Glocester Probate Court

Glocester Town Hall

1145 Putnam Pike

Chepachet, RI 02814

Phone: (401)568–6206 ext. 0

Johnston Probate Court

1385 Hartford Avenue

Johnston, RI 02919

Phone: (401)351–6618

Lincoln Probate Court

100 Old River Road, PO Box 100

Lincoln, RI 02865

Phone: (401)333–1100 ext. 8005

North Providence Probate Court

North Providence Town Hall

2000 Smith Street

North Providence, RI 02911

Phone: (401)232–0900 ext. 205

Pawtucket Probate Court

137 Roosevelt Avenue

Pawtucket, RI 02860

Phone: (401)728–0500 ext. 259

Providence Probate Court

25 Dorrance Street, 5th Floor

 Providence, RI 02903

Phone: (401)421–7740 ext. 307

Scituate Probate Court

195 Danielson Pike, PO Box 328

North Scituate, RI 02857

Phone: (401)647–2822

Smithfield Probate Court

64 Farnum Pike

Smithfield, RI 02917

Phone: (401)233–1000

Woonsocket Probate Court

169 Main Street

Woonsocket, RI 02895

Phone: (401)767–9249

Burrillville Probate Court

105 Harrisville Main Street

Harrisville, RI 02830

Phone: (401)568–4300

Central Falls Probate Court - Central Falls Probate Court

580 Broad Street

Central Falls, RI 02863

Phone: (401)727–7400

Cranston Probate Court

869 Park Avenue

Cranston, RI 02910

Phone: (401)780–3197

Cumberland Probate Court

45 Broad Street

Cumberland, RI 02864

Phone: (401)728–2400 ext. 154

East Providence Probate Court

145 Taunton Avenue

East Providence, RI 02914

Phone: (401)435–7500 ext. 11036

Washington County 

Charlestown Probate Court

4540 South County Trail

Charlestown, RI 02813

Phone: (401)364–1200

Exeter Probate Court

675 Ten Rod Road

Exeter, RI 02822

Phone: (401)294–3891

Hopkinton Probate Court

1 Town House Road

Hopkinton, RI 02883

Phone: (401)377–7777

Narragansett Probate Court

25 5th Avenue

Narragansett, RI 02882

Phone: (401)782–0621

New Shoreham Probate Court

PO Box 220

Block Island, RI 02807

Phone: (401)466–3200

North Kingstown Probate Court

100 Fairway Drive

North Kingstown, RI 02852

Phone: (401)268–1550

Richmond Probate Court

5 Richmond Townhouse Road

Wyoming, RI 02898

Phone: (401)539–9000 ext. 9

South Kingstown Probate Court

Town Hall

180 High Street

Wakefield, RI 02879

Phone: (401)789–9331 ext. 1236

Westerly Probate Court

45 Broad Street

Westerly, RI 02891

Phone: (401)348–2500

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