ABOUT THE SURROGATE'S COURT
The Surrogate's Court is a Department of County
Government as well as a branch of the Superior Court of New Jersey, in the
Chancery Division. The Surrogate is a Constitutional Officer who is elected to
the position every five years. The Surrogate serves as Deputy Clerk of the
Superior Court, Chancery Division, Probate Part as well as Judge of the
The word Surrogate means "one who takes
the place of another." The Surrogate in each county is actually taking the
place of the Governor, who, in 1710, received from the Archbishop of London the
authority to probate wills, issue marriage licenses and perform those functions
which at that time were in the province of the Church. That power eventually
went to the governor of the crown colony of New Jersey. The Surrogates were
recognized as a separate office in the 1844 Constitution of New Jersey and
allowed to run for election in each county to hold office for a five year term.
Through subsequent statutes and modification, the powers and duties of County
Surrogates were changed to meet present needs.
The duties of the Surrogate are mostly
administrative. These duties provide for the administration of an estate,
whether it be the process of admitting a will to probate or grant letters of
administration to an appropriate person to carry on the duties of the decedent.
Letters of Guardianship are also granted to persons for minor children who are
awarded funds through a court as well as guardians for mentally incompetent
As Clerk of the Superior Court of New Jersey,
Chancery Division, Probate Part, the Surrogate's Court reviews and files
adoptions, declaration of death actions, appointment of guardian for an
incompetent person, trusteeships, conservatorships and accountings.
Hunterdon County Surrogate's Court is
administering a program called the Guardianship Monitoring Program wherein
volunteers are used to monitor the wards and the guardians for incompetent
persons to see that their needs are met. These volunteers also audit the annual
accountings filed by the guardians.
Permanent records of all wills and other estate
administration papers are filed in the Surrogate's Court on microfilm making
that court a great source of information for title searchers and genealogists.
Original wills are then filed with the Clerk of the Superior Court in Trenton
for further record preservation.
The Court collects certain filing fees, set by
New Jersey Statute, which are turned over to the Board of Chosen Freeholders on
a monthly basis. The Surrogate and staff are paid salaries set by the Board of
Freeholders and receive no part of the fees collected.