New York Surrogate's Court
The Surrogate's Court of the State of New York handles all probate and estate proceedings in the New York State Unified Court System. All wills are probated in this court and all estates of people who die without a will are handled in this court. Unclaimed property of the deceased without wills is handled by the Judge of this court. It also handles adoptions.
There is a Surrogate's Court in each county in the state. The judges of this court are styled the "Surrogate of [X] County". The surrogate is elected countywide, and is required to be a resident of the pertaining county. Each of New York's 62 counties has one surrogate, except New York County and Kings County which have two each. Surrogates are elected to 10-year terms, except those in the five counties within New York City where surrogates are elected to 14-year terms. In some counties, usually those with a small number of inhabitants, the judge of the County Court holds at the same time the office of surrogate.
There have been frequent efforts to abolish the Surrogate's Court and redistribute its powers to the New York Supreme Court (the general trial court) and the Family Court. The most recent efforts stem from the corruption scandal surrounding former Brooklyn Surrogate Michael Feinberg, who was removed from the bench in 2005.
- Constitution of the State of New York Article VI, § 12. "a. The surrogate's court is continued in each county in the state. There shall be at least one judge of the surrogate's court in each county and such number of additional judges of the surrogate's court as may be provided by law. [...]"
- Surrogate's Court Procedure Act § 2603. "1. The judge of the surrogate's court may be designated as the surrogate. He may sign any paper wherever he may be at any time. 2. Where the county judge is also a judge of the surrogate's court he shall be designated as such without any addition referring to his office as county judge. 3. Where a judicial officer other than the judge of the surrogate's court acts as a judge of the surrogate's court in a case prescribed by law, he may be designated as 'surrogate', notwithstanding his official title. [...]
- Constitution of the State of New York Article VI, § 12. "[...] c. The terms of the judges of the surrogate's court in the city of New York shall be fourteen years, and in other counties ten years, [...]"
- Constitution of the State of New York Article VI, § 14. "The legislature may at any time provide that outside the city of New York the same person may act and discharge the duties of county judge and surrogate or of judge of the family court and surrogate, or of county judge and judge of the family court, or of all three positions in any county."
- Tilzer, Gary (July 4, 2005). "Surrogate's Court And Why It Should Go". Gotham Gazette.
- Louis, Errol (August 13, 2008). "To clean up corrupt Surrogate Courts, wake up and vote". New York Daily News.
- Katz, Nancie L. (June 30, 2005). "News helps get dirty B'klyn judge axed". New York Daily News.