Law & Legal & Attorney Wills & trusts

What Is Probate Court in New York?


    • The primary function of the New York Surrogate's Court is to probate the estates of individuals who died leaving wills. The court also probates the estates of individuals who die without a will. Finally, the court determines how property is to be disposed of when a person dies with neither a will nor heirs recognized by New York law. Additionally, New York Surrogate's Court also presides over adoption cases.


    • Sixty of the 62 counties that compose New York have one surrogate judge. New York and King counties each have two surrogate judges. In rural counties, the duties of the surrogate judge are undertaken by a county court judge because the workload does not support a full-time position dealing with probate matters.


    • Judges are elected to the surrogate court. In 61 New York counties, a surrogate judge is elected for a 10-year term of office in a county-wide election. In one county, New York, the two surrogate judges are each elected for individual terms of 14 years.


    • The New York Surrogate's Court is rooted in the orphans courts of Colonial America. Orphans courts were established to protect orphaned children and their rights to the property and assets of their parents. Surrogates were appointed by the orphans courts, people trusted by the court to manage the affairs and protect the interests of the orphaned children.

    Expert Insight

    • The procedures associated with Surrogate's Court varies from that in other New York courts. Moreover, probate law generally is complex. Therefore, if you face a case in Surrogate's Court, consider retaining the services of an experienced New York probate attorney. The New York State Bar Association maintains a directory of attorneys in different practice areas, including probate law. Contact the organization at:

      New York State Bar Association
      1 Elk St.
      Albany, NY 12207

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