Surrogate's Corner

A Message from the Surrogate

The goal of the Surrogate’s Corner is to educate the public on the services and support the Essex County Surrogate’s Court can offer. From the generational wealth that can accumulate from proper preparation of Wills, to adoption and guardianship support, we are here to help you when life changes occur. On this page, you’ll find important updates on our events and initiatives, messages and announcements from the Surrogate, as well as past webinars!

“The Essex County Surrogate’s Court helped us navigate through all of the very tricky laws in order for my brother’s wishes to be fulfilled.”
- Harold Perrineau, award-winning actor and producer

Life changes… Don’t get caught off guard

Announcements & Updates

May 20, 2024

Newark Board of Education Health & Wellness Fair Spring Block Party

Last weekend, Essex County Surrogate’s Court joined the Newark Board of Education for a fun and educational Health & Wellness Fair Spring Block Party on First Avenue in Newark. The Block Party served as an opportunity to enjoy the warm Spring weather while reminding us to prioritize our joy and wellness.

While we interacted with the community and enjoyed great food, music, and outdoor activities, the ECSC team also shared information and resources about adoptions and guardianships. According to the latest data, there are over 100,000 children nationwide waiting to be adopted. While these numbers are staggering, numerous families want to grow their households. With the support of our community, we can lower these numbers by helping children find their forever homes.

April 24, 2024

Essex County Surrogate’s Court Statement on the Passing of Congressman Donald Payne, Jr.

On behalf of the Essex County Surrogate's Court, I want to extend our heartfelt condolences to the Payne family on the passing of Congressman Donald Payne Jr., in particular, his wife Beatrice and their three children, Donald III, Jack, and Yvonne. We also extend our well wishes to the Honorable William Payne, Craig Stanley, and the Congressional District 10 staff. Congressman Payne, known to his family and friends as Choppy, was a mentor and friend to me and so many others. Down to earth, accessible, and committed, he embodied the Payne family's unwavering dedication to public service, justice, and fighting for the most marginalized. His efforts transformed lives and neighborhoods in our state and the nation. Congressman Payne introduced and passed laws to make healthcare more affordable and to remove lead contamination from our drinking water. He secured billions of dollars to support job creation in low-income communities and to rebuild our aging infrastructure. In addition to his policy achievements, he used his voice to promote men's health by sharing his fight against diabetes. Congressman Payne, thank you for being gracious, kind, and effective.

March 25, 2024

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month: 5 Steps To Consider When Preparing Your Child For Adulthood

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Our Superior Court Clerk, Tara Wilson, recently shared 5 steps to prepare your child for adulthood. Ms. Wilson has over 17 years of experience working with thousands of families raising children with a developmental disability throughout Essex County, NJ. If you or someone you know can benefit from this information, here is a link to the article on Patch Newark.

March 8, 2024

Congratulations to Evelyn Rivera on Her Retirement

After 42 years of service, Evelyn Rivera retired from the Essex County Surrogate's Court as Chief Probate Clerk on February 29, 2024. We want to thank Ms. Rivera for her unquestionable commitment to our residents and dedication to our community. Ms. Rivera was more than an employee of our Court—she was an institution that worked and collaborated with several Surrogates over the years.

Beginning her career as a student intern with Nicholas Amato at East Side High School, Evelyn went on to work with Thomas Giblin, Earl Harris, Judge Michael Nelson, Hon. Joseph Brennan, Judge Ted Stephens, and Devero McDougal. She trained every one of us, including the Surrogates who have gone on to serve as legal giants in their profession.

Evelyn, your presence will be missed. I'm glad we had the opportunity to meet you, work with you, learn from you, and watch you serve our community with care and class. We're grateful to have worked with someone of such strong character as you and witness you appreciate the young people you trained, including myself. While your time with the Court has ended, you will forever be a part of the Essex County Surrogate's Court family!

February 16, 2024

Men's Game Day at the Bowser Family Senior Center

Last week, Essex County Surrogate's Court had the pleasure of visiting the Bowser Family Senior Center in East Orange, NJ, for its Men's Game Day to talk with individuals about the importance of creating an estate plan and making a Will. A common misconception is that it's too late or people are too poor to make a Will. That is incorrect. Anybody can make a Will, and it's never too early or too late to start planning.

Having your affairs in order and leaving your assets behind for your loved ones is how we can start building generational wealth in our community. The goal is to shift the tide by ensuring our family inherits our assets rather than debt. The day ended with jokes, laughs, lighthearted conversation, and various games, including dominoes, cards, ping pong, checkers, chess, board games, billiards, and board games.

February 5, 2024

Looking Forward To A Second Term As Your Essex County Surrogate

Thank you again to the citizens of Essex County for re-electing me to serve as your Essex County Surrogate. The swearing-in ceremony in January at the Essex County Donald M. Payne, Sr. School of Technology was a memorable way to bring in the New Year and begin my second term. Thank you to all who attended and the Newark Patch for covering my inauguration.

Under my leadership, the Essex County Surrogate's Court will continue to grow our capacity, expand our resources, and conduct outreach to educate and prepare our residents to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

Thank you all once again, and Happy New Year!

December 4, 2023

Essex County Surrogate's Court Joins Local Adoption Event

On November 17th, we celebrated Adoption Day to spread awareness about the impact and importance of finding a suitable home for children in need. Those in attendance had the chance to meet new people, watch a magic show, listen to music, participate in activities, and witness family members finalize their adoption. For many, the day was a happy moment filled with tears and laughter, while for others, it was a reminder of the predicament we face.

There are currently over 113,000 children nationwide waiting to be adopted. Through the combined efforts of County Surrogates and the DCP&P, adoptions of 100+ foster children can be finalized in a single day. Given the staggering numbers, it must be a combined effort if we hope to achieve the goal of finding every child a safe home.

November 20, 2023

Alturrick Kenney Statement On Being Re-Elected As Essex County’s Surrogate

I extend my heartfelt thanks to each of you for your valuable votes in the recent Essex County Surrogate’s Court election. Serving you during my inaugural term as Surrogate over the past 4 years has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Your support has afforded me the opportunity to serve my local community, which has been nothing short of incredibly rewarding. I’m immensely grateful to continue fulfilling my passion for public service, so I don’t take your decision lightly.

Being a Newark native, I know firsthand the significance of families having the necessary resources and opportunities to flourish. That is why we remain committed to our mission of educating residents about the benefits of estate planning, the process of creating a Will and the urgency for having your affairs in order early on. Our goal is to equip families, especially families of color, with the necessary tools to build generational wealth. Estate planning is a small - but critical – step towards breaking the cycle of inheriting generational debt.

Last but most certainly not least, I would also like to extend a heartfelt thank you to each and every one of my dedicated and passionate Surrogacy team members. I extend my thanks to Deputy Surrogate, Devero McDougal, Esq; Chief Probate, Evelyn Rivera; Probate Clerk, Rukiyyah Williams; Probate Clerk, Debra Pitt-Davis; Surrogate Legal Counsel, Edward Kenlan, Esq.; Superior Court Clerk, Tara Wilson; Bilingual Clerk-Adoptions, Sara Montiel; Records Manager, John Lawton; Senior Keyboard Clerk, Tawanna Vaden; Accounting Assistant, Rae Yanna Johnson; and Analyst, Michael White.

Without each and every one of you, this mission wouldn’t be possible.

Thank you.

November 16, 2023

37th Annual Title I Parent Conference

Last week our team had the pleasure of being invited to the 37th Annual Title I Parent Conference in collaboration with the Newark Board of Education. We took the opportunity to speak with the community and educate Essex County families about the importance of estate planning. For those that weren't able to make it, below are some photos we captured during the event!

ROI People of Color ROI People of Color ROI People of Color
October 24, 2023

PIX11 Interview

I recently got to sit down with Craig Treadway and Hazel Sanchez to discuss the importance of making a Will. Our goal was to highlight the importance of estate planning and how it can help families build generational wealth by inheriting assets instead of debt. During the interview we highlighted statistics, discussed ways to go about making an estate plan and offered five quick tips to help you get started today.

October 13, 2023

Senior Wellness Day 2023

On October 3rd, we attended the Essex County Senior Wellness Day and had the pleasure of connecting with our local community of elders through a day of celebration, laughter, conversation, and, of course, educational discourse.

Essex County Surrogate's Court prioritizes spreading information and sharing knowledge with our community. That is why we provided critical information and resources to families looking to accrue generational wealth and protect their assets throughout the event. Here is a quick highlight from the event, which was the biggest since the lockdown. For those who weren’t able to attend, we highly recommend marking your calendar for next year so you can come out and celebrate with us!

September 7, 2023

ROI-NJ Influencers of Color 2023

Thank you to ROI-NJ for selecting me for their annual ROI Influencers: People of Color list, and congratulations to all the other honorees. This recognition is an incredible honor. I will continue to dedicate my time to ensure our community continues to have access to the critical resources needed for life's most challenging moments.

ROI People of Color
August 4, 2023

Ways to Manage Stress When Caring for Elderly or Aging Parents

Stress is a normal part of life. It can be caused by work, family, and even lifestyle changes. I recently sat down with Authority Magazine to discuss another situation that can be stressful—caring for elderly or aging parents. Check out the interview for tips on becoming stress-proof by managing or eliminating the stress associated with elder parent care.

August 1, 2023

Statement from Essex County Surrogate on the Passing of New Jersey Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver

On behalf of the entire Essex County Surrogate’s Court, I want to extend our deepest condolences to the family of the Honorable Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver and the State of New Jersey. Lt. Governor Oliver opened doors for African Americans and women of color in leadership and public service, championing causes that impacted many throughout the state. To my fellow Weequahic High School graduate, Lt. Governor Oliver, thank you for a life well-lived and for serving our residents with honor and distinction.

July 3, 2023

Your Adult Guardianship Questions Answered

Our office receives many questions regarding Adult Guardianships. The guardianship process is intricate and can vary from person to person, depending on the situation. We understand that it can be confusing for residents, which is why we created a resource in English and Spanish that provides more information. We hope this document is helpful and makes the process easier to understand. If you require additional assistance or have questions, contact us at or (973) 621-4901.

Adult Guardianship Overview Descripción General De La Tutela De Adultos
June 26, 2023

These 3 Documents Will Protect Your Assets During and After Your Lifetime.

Having a Will is crucial to ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes once you are gone. However, the first step is to accrue and protect those assets during your lifetime. I recently had a conversation with Crystal West Edwards, Esq., Principal at Porzio, Bromberg & Newman, P.C., about the importance of estate planning and the three key documents that can secure your family’s future.

March 1, 2023

Don’t Leave Anything to Chance. Prioritize Making a Will.

Prince, Aretha Franklin, Chadwick Boseman, and Stephen “tWitch” Boss are just some of the Black celebrities who recently passed away with questionable Wills or no Wills at all. As their families learned, the lack of a Will coupled with an untimely death can have negative impacts on anybody with specific wishes for their assets or anybody working to build wealth for their family. That’s why it’s never too early to create a Will. Read more on the topic in my recent op-ed for

January 16, 2023

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As we begin the new year 2023, we want to take a moment and reflect on how much of an honor it is to serve the community from our new office located in the Martin Luther King Jr. Justice Building. For those who haven't been, here's a quick look at the memorial located in and around our building at 495 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Newark.