Do you need the support of a New York Surrogate Court? Perhaps you are preparing your Will, or you’ve been nominated as the Executor of a Will. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your estate, a loved one’s estate, or the probate process, then your local Surrogate Court can be a wonderful source of information. Keep reading to find out what a Surrogate Court is, an overview of New York’s Surrogate Court system, and a directory of New York Surrogate Courts by county.
What is Surrogate Court?
A Surrogate Court is the equivalent of a Probate Court in the states of New York and New Jersey. These courts are branches of the respective states’ Superior or Supreme Court and have limited jurisdiction. They hear cases involving decedents, such as the Probate of Wills, appointing Executors and Administrators, and administration of estates. They also oversee matters pertaining to guardianships.
The term “surrogate” is rooted in old English history. In summary, the word in this context essentially means substitute. In other words, the Surrogate Court is the substitute authority on probate on behalf of the Supreme Court. Because their jurisdiction is limited, they typically don’t hear cases that are complicated or contested. If any doubt or conflict arises surrounding an estate, the case is escalated to the Supreme Court. To learn more about the interesting history of Surrogate Courts and how they work, check out our Surrogate Court & Estate Planning guide.
New York’s Surrogate Court
The New York State Unified Court System is the State of New York’s legal system. It consists of courts such as the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court, County Courts, and District Courts, to name a few. There are also some specialized courts, such as the Court of Claims, Family Court, and the Surrogate’s Court.
The Surrogate’s Court specializes in all probate and estate proceedings on behalf of the New York court system. It also handles adoptions, guardianships, and unclaimed property when a New York resident dies intestate.
Each of New York’s 62 counties has a Surrogate’s Court and an appointed Surrogate judge. New York and Kings Counties are exceptions, each of which have two surrogates. All New York surrogates are elected to 10-year terms, except for five counties where the terms are 14 years. The County Court judge may also serve as the Surrogate judge in smaller counties.
What is New York State Law Regarding Wills?
There are several New York State laws regarding Wills and the probate process. When someone dies and has a Will in place, then their nominated Executor will file to open Probate. The respective Surrogate’s Court will officially appoint the Executor and see to it that they administer the estate per the decedent’s wishes.
If there is no Will, the individual is said to have died “intestate.” The Surrogacy Court will then utilize state intestacy laws to determine the “who gets what” aspect of the deceased person’s estate.
Even when there is a Will, however, there are certain legal stipulations. For instance, the State of New York protects spouses and minor children from inheriting nothing in a Will. Surviving spouses have a legal right to claim part of the estate of their spouse. (This is true even when the Will says something otherwise.) This claim is called a contest, and may escalate the case to the Supreme Court for adjudication. However, it is perfectly legal to disinherit a child if they are over the age of 18. They do not have the right to contest the Will in the State of New York.
Be sure to review New York State Law regarding Wills to find answers if you have any specific questions regarding estate planning outcomes.
New York Surrogate Court by County
New York City is composed of five boroughs, each of which is also a county. Therefore, there are five surrogate courts in the city, one representing each county. Below you will find a directory of New York City’s five Surrogate’s Courts.
Presiding Judge(s): Hon. Nelida Malavé-Gonzalez
Link to Surrogate Website: https://www.nycourts.gov/COURTS/12jd/BRONX/Surrogates/index.shtml
Surrogate Office Address: 12th Judicial District, 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY 10451
Surrogate Office Phone Number: 718-618-2300
Kings County (Brooklyn)
Presiding Judge(s): Hon. Rosemarie Montalbano & Hon. Carol R. Edmead
Link to Surrogate Website: http://ww2.nycourts.gov/courts/2jd/surrogates/index.shtml
Surrogate Office Address: 2 Johnson Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Surrogate Office Phone Number: 347-404-9670 (Probate); 347-404-9690 (Administration)
New York County (Manhattan)
Presiding Judge(s): Hon. Nora S. Anderson & Hon. Rita Mella
Link to Surrogate Website: https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/1jd/surrogates/index.shtml
Surrogate Office Address: 31 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007
Surrogate Office Phone Number: 646-386-5000
Presiding Judge(s): Hon. Peter J. Kelly
Link to Surrogate Website: https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/11jd/surrogates/index.shtml
Surrogate Office Address: 88-11 Sutphin Blvd. Jamaica, NY 11435
Surrogate Office Phone Number: 718-298-0500
Richmond County (Staten Island)
Presiding Judge(s): Hon. Matthew J. Titone
Link to Surrogate Website: https://www.nycourts.gov/courts/13jd/surrogates/index.shtml
Surrogate Office Address: 18 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island, NY 10301
Surrogate Office Phone Number: 718-675-8500
Helpful New York Surrogate Court Forms
The New York Court system offers a number of forms to use in official Surrogate’s Court proceedings. Because court proceedings can be confusing for the average person, helpful checklists are also provided to assist public members in filling out forms and completing petitions. (Note that checklists should not be submitted to the court.)
Forms can be downloaded as PDFs and filled out online. However, they cannot be submitted online; they must be printed and submitted in paper format.
Here is a list of several helpful Surrogate’s Court forms provided by the New York court system:
Small Estate Forms
Wrongful Death Forms
Common Questions About New York Surrogate Court
The inner workings of the New York Surrogate Court is complex and robust, and thus it’s natural to have several questions. Here are several answers to popular questions surrounding Surrogate’s Court in New York.
What are some common proceedings in Surrogate’s Court in New York?
The Surrogate’s Court in New York oversees several proceedings regarding probate, estates, and intestacy. Here is an example list of some of the proceedings overseen by the New York Surrogate’s Court:
Voluntary/Small Estate Administration
Do all Wills have to be probated in New York state?
Not all Wills have to be probated in New York state. Only estates valued over $50,000 are subject to probate proceedings. If an estate is valued under this threshold, then they are eligible for a “small estate proceeding.”
If someone does without a Will, then they are said to have died intestate. These cases are “administered” and not probated. Further, certain assets are not subject to the probate process. Examples include insurance policies, retirement accounts, and any other types of accounts with a named beneficiary. Assets transferred into a Trust also aren’t included in the probate proceeding.
Do Wills have to be filed in New York?
Yes. The New York Surrogate’s Court will not open probate proceedings for an estate before a Will is filed.
Typically, the person who wrote the Will (the Testator) does not file the Will. They will store the original in a safe place until it is needed. Some counties also offer a vault for Wills for safekeeping. When the Testator passes away, then the Will must be filed. This is one of the responsibilities of the nominated Executor. Once the Will is filed, then the Surrogate’s Court can open probate on the estate and officially appoint the Executor.
There is one exception. If the decedent had less than $50,000 in personal property can qualify for a small estate proceeding. Voluntary administration for a small estate can be filed in place of the Will.
Create Your Estate Plan Today
The New York Surrogate Court is an intricate legal system. Although it is often identified using a singular noun, the Surrogate Court is actually comprised of 62 separate courts, each representing each county in the State of New York. Each of these courts are led by a Surrogate Judge, who is an elected state official who serves in 10 or 14-year terms. These specialized courts are a part of New York’s Unified Court System and are a branch of the New York Supreme Court.
The Surrogate’s Court is responsible for hearing cases related to probate, intestacy, guardianships, and adoptions. Therefore, if you are planning your estate and are a resident of New York, then this is a court that you should certainly become familiar with. The New York State Unified Court System website provides excellent information, education, and resources regarding the Surrogate’s Court.
If you die without a Will, then the Surrogate’s Court will apply state intestacy laws to adjudicate how your personal property should be distributed. Although this is effective in the sense that your property will be passed on to your relatives, it is simultaneously ineffective. This is because the laws are rigid and do not accommodate personal family dynamics or desires. Intestacy means that your authentic wishes may not be honored. Instead, make them known and legally-binding by establishing a valid Will.
Not sure how to create a legally valid Will? We can help you with that! At Trust & Will, we specialize in helping Americans establish their Wills (and Trusts) in a way that is affordable, accessible, and easy. We make it easy to understand, and you’ll have help every step of the way. Even better, you can create your Will online from the comfort of your home! There’s nothing holding you back. Start your Will today and take the first step towards legal empowerment.
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