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 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 Surrogate is a constitutional officer who is elected to the position by county voters every five years.
The County Surrogate has the authority to qualify executors and trustees named in wills, to appoint administrators for those who die without a will, and to appoint guardians for minors and legally incapacitated persons. The Surrogate’s office is also responsible for overseeing the procedure in contested estate matters, in the declaration of incapacitation, in appointment of guardians, and in granting of adoptions in the Superior Court of New Jersey.
The Surrogate is the custodian of the records of such estates, wills, guardianships, and adoptions. Permanent records of all wills and other estate administration papers dating back to the early 1800’s are filed in the Surrogate’s Court on microfilm, microfiche or as scanned documents. This provides an important source of information for title searchers, genealogists, and local historians. The Surrogate places adoption records under seal and maintains these records.
The Surrogate’s Court is also custodian of funds awarded to minors through settlement, inheritances, or as beneficiaries of life insurance proceeds. Over 180 accounts totaling more than $9 million is held in the Surrogate’s Intermingled Trust Fund.