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

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.

November 1, 2022

National Estate Planning Awareness Week

October 17-23 was National Estate Planning Awareness Week. Many Essex County residents believe you need to be wealthy or elderly to have an estate plan, which is simply not true. Without an estate plan or Will, families are exposed to costly drawn-out legal battles leading to emotional trauma and crippling financial burdens. That’s why in honor of the week, the Essex County Surrogate’s Court encouraged our community to make estate planning a priority.

Learn more about how estate planning can help your family keep more wealth by reading my op-ed for TheGrio.

Watch our video featured by The Newark Times to hear 5 simple tips to start your estate plan.

October 10, 2022

Essex County Senior Wellness Day

Join us on Tuesday, October 18, 2022, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., at the Essex County Richard J. Codey Arena in West Orange, NJ, for the Annual Essex County Senior Wellness Day. This free event will offer health screenings, exercise demonstrations, and other valuable information for Essex County seniors.

ECSC Senior Wellness Day Flyer
March 25, 2022

Looking to Their Future: A Developmental Disability Awareness Month Webinar

On March 24, 2022 we hosted a webinar to discuss adult guardianship and options available for children with developmental disabilities aging into adulthood. We were joined by April Fronduto-Slavin, Esq., Special Deputy Surrogate in the Bergen County Surrogate’s Court; and Thomasina R. Thornton, Esq., sole practitioner with primary concentrations in the areas of trust and estate planning, wealth transfers, asset protection, estate tax planning, Estate Administration (Probate), and Guardianships.

Watch this webinar for more information on the process and procedures surrounding adult guardianship.

December 7, 2021

The Nuts and Bolts of Adoption: How to Avoid Pitfalls

On December 7, 2021 we partnered with the Rutgers Institute for Professional Education to co-sponsor an informative and impactful CLE webinar about the fundamentals of adoption law and the unique perspective of the attorneys, the Surrogate’s Court, and the judge. Our Deputy Surrogate Devero McDougal, Esq. and Bilingual Clerk-Adoptions Sara Montiel were joined by Hon. Wayne J. Forrest, Judge for the Essex County Superior Court (Vicinage 5); Lauri R. Steinberg, Esq., Attorney at Pine & Steinberg, LLC; and Deb Guston, Esq., Attorney at Guston & Guston, LLP, for the program.

Nuts and Bolts of Adoption Flyer
Novemeber 30, 2021

Foster To Adopt: How You Can Help Neglected Children Have The Bright Future They Deserve

Black and Brown children who are in foster care are often last if ever, to be adopted. While going through the child welfare system, they must have the support of people who can relate to them. That’s why more people of color need to be involved in every stage of the adoption process. Read more on the topic in my recent op-ed for Blavity.

August 9,2021

National Make-A-Will Month Webinar

On August 8, 2021, we were joined by Harold Perrineau, award-winning actor and star of the Matrix franchise and ABC’s hit show Lost for an informative and impactful National Make-A-Will Month webinar, which discussed the importance of having a will. We were also joined by Judge Bernice Toledo, Passaic County Surrogate, and Crystal W. Edwards Esq., Principal of Porzio Bromberg & Newman P.C.

Watch this webinar to learn about the benefits of proactive will and estate planning.