What is the role of a county surrogate?
The Surrogate is a constitutional officer who is elected to the position by county voters every five years. The Surrogate’s Court is a department of county government, as well as a branch of the Superior Court of New Jersey. The Surrogate serves as Deputy Clerk of the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Probate Part, and Chancery Division, Family Part for adoptions, as well as Judge of the Surrogate’s Court.
The County Surrogate has the authority to qualify executors and trustees named in wills, to appoint administrators for those who die without wills, and to appoint guardians for minors and legally incapacitated persons. The Surrogate’s Court is also responsible for overseeing the procedure in contested estate matters, in the declaration of incapacitation, in appointment of guardians, and in the granting of adoptions in the Superior Court of New Jersey.
Does it matter if the County Surrogate is a Democrat or Republican?
Ask yourself: the last time you chose a doctor, did you inquire if she was democrat or republican? When you chose an estate planning lawyer, did it matter who he voted for in the last election?
The role of the County Surrogate should be one of the least political jobs in government. County residents utilize the services of the Surrogate’s Court when they are facing a family crisis: when a loved one dies; when a disabled child turns 18; when a parent loses capacity. While it is not required that the County Surrogate be an attorney, or even a trusts and estates attorney, I believe my skills and experience, honed over more than two decades, make me a strong candidate for the job. I have drafted thousands of wills and trusts. I have administered hundreds of estates. I have been involved in Will contests and litigated guardianships. In all of these matters I am proud to say that I was a zealous advocate for my clients. But I am also proud of my reputation as an ethical adversary. In September of 2016, I was appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New Jersey to a four year term serving on the Office of Attorney Ethics, District VB Ethics Committee.