In response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and for the protection of the Surrogate Staff and the general public, the Cape May County Surrogate’s Court has been closed to the public since March 20, 2020. The Surrogate’s Court has been open and staffed continuously since that time to conduct all normal business operations. All necessary services can and have been completed via the telephone, internet, email, regular mail, overnight mail, fax and a drop-box installed in the main lobby of the Courthouse. This remains the preferred procedure for the near future.
The Surrogate’s Court can be contacted as follows:
Regular Mail: 4 Moore Road, DN-207, Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
To probate a Will and be named as Executor of an estate, please forward to us the original Will, an original Death Certificate and a completed Information Sheet.
If the Decedent had no Will, family members or friends will be applying to become the Administrator of the estate. We will need an original death certificate and a completed Information Sheet. Please pay particular attention to the asset and liability section of the form and complete same to the best of your ability. Administrations may also require that you obtain a Surety Bond in an amount to be determined by the Surrogate. We will also need VIN numbers for all motor vehicles.
Documentation for Small Estates (defined as $50,000 for surviving spouses or $20,000 for next-of-kin) may also be obtained using the same procedure set forth above for Administrations. We will need very specific information identifying each asset and the value of same. Please note that if a Will exists, you cannot apply for a Small Estate Affidavit and the Will must be probated.
Most persons contacting this office are seeking Short Certificates to authorize them to conduct estate business, such as accessing funds in bank accounts or selling motor vehicles. You will need one Short Certificate or Affidavit for each asset that exists in the Decedent’s individual name. It will be helpful to advise how many Short Certificates you will need. If you later determine you need additional Short Certificates, they can be easily obtained by contacting this office.
Please advise as to your preferred method of communication. In many cases we will call or email you to get any additional information, then mail or email forms to you for execution and advise you of the required fee. After you return the forms to us with the necessary fee, we will mail you the original documents you will need to administer the estate or they can be picked up at the Sheriff’s Desk in the lobby.
With the phased re-opening of the Court, we will be available to meet with members of the public BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. To expediate the process, the Information Sheet, original Will and Death Certificate MUST be submitted prior to the appointment so that we can prepare necessary documentation in advance of your appointment and limit your time in the office.
Please be advised that pursuant to state law, the Surrogate’s Office must retain the original Will and Death Certificate. You will be provided with a certified true copy of the Will in the event that any institution requires same.
We apologize for any inconveniences or delays in providing services. However, I believe these actions will help protect the public, provide for the health of my staff and ensure the continued prompt, professional and empathetic service the public has come to expect and deserve from the Surrogate Court.
Dean R. Marcolongo, Esquire Surrogate Judge, Cape May County
Each county has a Surrogate's Court and the Surrogate is the Judge of that court. The Surrogate is elected for a term of 5 years, pursuant to the Constitution of New Jersey, by the people of the county in which he or she has jurisdiction. Today, the County Surrogate is the Judge of the Surrogate’s Court which is almost certain to touch the lives of every person in the county at some time.
The word "Surrogate" means "one who takes the place of another." The Surrogate in each county is actually taking the place of the governor, who in 1710 received from the Archbishop of London the authority as the Archbishop's "Ordinary" or Surrogate General to probate wills, issue marriage licenses and perform those functions which at that time were in the province of the Church.
That power, eventually distributed by the governor, then the governor of the Crown Colony of New Jersey, and subsequently the Governor of the State of New Jersey to his Surrogates, was recognized by subsequent New Jersey Legislatures in statutes which codified the powers and duties of the Surrogates, and by the Constitutions which fixed their terms.