How do I check for possible estate records?
To request a search for the existence of an estate or Will:
- Send a written search request, Attention: Surrogate's Court Vault, containing the deceased’s name, date of death, and last address (if known).
- There is a $10.00 search fee per search. Please include a check or money order made payable to the order of the “Essex County Surrogate.”
- Upon receipt of your written request and the fee, a search will be done. If the search does not reveal an estate record, you will be notified.
- It the search reveals an estate record, you will receive a letter containing the docket number, the name of the attorney of record (if any), the name and address of the executor/administrator, the number of pages the file contains, and the cost to provide the documents to you ($3.00 per page).
- If you decide to order the records, the letter will also contain your next steps.
Please note that each name will be considered a separate search. Also note that even if you have the estate docket number, your request will be considered a search request. If you do not wish to pay for a search, you may come to the Surrogate's vault and do a search, free of charge. Per page copy costs will still apply.
What happens to unclaimed property?
The Unclaimed Property Administration (UPA) recovers and records abandoned or lost intangible and tangible property. The UPA’s goal is to return this property to the rightful owner and/or heirs. The New Jersey Unclaimed Property Statute states that property owners never relinquish the right to this property and that the UPA acts as a custodian until the property is returned. Therefore, even after someone dies, his/her estate is entitled to receive property held by the UPA. However, the UPA almost always requires that the person attempting to claim a decedent's property show proof that he/she has been duly appointed by the Surrogate's Court in the county where the decedent was a resident at the time of his/her death.
What do I need to bring to Essex County Surrogate Court when probating a Will?
- Photo identification
- A certified copy of a death certificate
- An original Will, along with the appointed executor.
Why does the Surrogate Court keep the original Will and what happens if I need it again?
The original Will must be submitted as proof of death in compliance with court rules. A copy of the Will is provided to you, the executor after the Will has been probated.
What should I prepare for the administrator of my Will to settle my estate?
The following is a list of documents and papers that could be essential for settling your estate when you pass away. Keep them in a safe place and make sure your family knows where they are. It may also be helpful to keep a list of these documents for the executor of the estate.
- Checking & savings account numbers and the names of your banks
- Motor vehicle titles
- Records from your church or religious affiliation
- Real estate deeds
- Installment loans and promissory notes
- Safe deposit box location, number, and key
- Birth certificate
- Social Security card or number
- Stocks and bonds
- Marriage / divorce records
- Pension and annuity records
- Veterans records, including discharge papers
- Insurance policies
- Union / company life insurance papers
- Recent federal and state income tax returns
- Information on health benefits and insurance
How does the surety bond work in the process of administering a Will?
As administrator of a Will, you are responsible to post a surety bond, unless the Will waives the requirement. A surety bond is a promise by a guarantor to pay one party (the obligee) a certain amount if a second party (the principal) fails to meet some obligation, such as fulfilling the terms of a contract. The surety bond protects the beneficiaries and creditors of the estate against losses resulting from the principal's failure to meet the obligation.
A bond is not insurance. You are responsible for any losses that cause the surety to pay on your behalf. The Indemnity Agreement is your promise to repay the surety. The law establishes minimum terms and conditions for indemnity and collection, which must be in each bond. The other terms, such as premium and duration are between you and the bonding company.
You are free to purchase the bond from any qualified source. The initial premium is due when the bond application is completed and your appointment as administrator will not be granted until the bond is received in the Surrogate's Court.
The bond does not terminate at the end of the first year. Annual premiums are due to the bonding agent each year until the estate is closed, once the Surrogate’s Court files the appropriate forms. If you do not notify the bonding agent and provide proof that the estate is closed, you will continue to be billed each year for another premium.
If you have questions about surety bonds, please contact us, or visit our office.
Why do I have to deposit any money my child receives from a lawsuit or inheritance into the Surrogate’s Court Intermingled Trust Account?
Under the New Jersey Law minors cannot receive funds from a lawsuit or inheritance. Funds are required to be deposited into the Surrogate Court unless a court order states differently.
Why does a parent who hasn’t been in a child’s life for many years still have to renounce?
Unless parental rights have been terminated, one parent must renounce to the other because both are equally entitled to act as a guardian.
What is needed to initiate guardianship of an incapacitated adult?
The Essex County Surrogate's Court does not provide pro se forms or examples of pleadings for guardianships of mentally incapacitated persons. We highly recommend independent legal consultation and/or representation. Guidance can also be found at the New Jersey Judiciary's website.