Surrogates - In the news, but what do they do?

In Morris County right now we have an election race for the Morris County Surrogate.  The Surrogate is an office that I deal with frequently, but many people do not know much about.  

I must first say that Surrogate John Pecoraro does a wonderful job.  My clients interact with his office usually due to the death of a family member and his office and staff are warm, caring and efficient so that the executor can leave their office feeling empowered rather than scared and confused (disclaimer - this endorsement is not upon request or even knowledge of his office, but because I feel Surrogate Pecoraro has excelled in the position).

The Surrogate is an elected judicial role.  The Surrogate has jurisdiction in limited areas:

  1. When a person dies, the Surrogate reviews the will and if all is in order, formally empowers the Executor to act on behalf of the estate
  2. When a person dies without a Will, the Surrogate formally empowers the Administrator (who is named to act based on relationship to the decedent) to act on behalf of the estate, as well as ensure that the estate administrate is completed
  3. If a person is incompetent (due to mental disability or being a minor) the Surrogate is involved with the process of the naming of the Guardian.
  4. The Surrogate facilitates adoptions.
  5. The Surrogate managed funds paid to minors (inheritances left to a person under age 18, or personal injury awards).  The Minors' Intermingled Trust Fund for Morris County minors manages approximately $25 million.

As an aside, you can now search for probated estates online to see if a will was probated or an estate administration opened in Morris County.  

The Surrogate's role is quiet, but important.  They facilitate moving families through times of grief and joy.  Having dealt with many other Surrogates, it is pleasure to represent cases in Morris County.