July 11, 2015
Surrogate's Court: Important Documents & Time Frames
By far the most important documents in any Surrogate's Court proceeding are the Petition, Answer/Objections and Account, documents which are collectively referred to as "Pleadings."
Petition - A Petition is the first documents filed in any Surrogate's Court proceeding. It is the document which tells the court what the person filing the Petition, referred to as the Petitioner, is asking the court to do (typically to appoint the Petitioner as the Executor or Administrator of a deceased person's Will/Estate). The Petition is always the first document filed with the Surrogate's Court, and the filing of the Petition starts/begins the Surrogate's Court proceeding.
Answer/Objections - Answer/Objections are documents filed after, and in response to, the Petition in which a person, referred to as the Respondent, states why he/she thinks that the Petition should not be granted. If an Answer or Objections are filed within the time frame set by the court, the court will hold a conference with the Petitioner and Respondent, during which time both the Petitioner and Respondent will have the opportunity to express to the Court's staff why the Petition should/should not be granted, and, if all outstanding issues cannot be resolved at this conference, the court will take note that the proceeding is contested and the matters will slowly proceed to the point of trial. Note that unless the Court provides otherwise, Answers/Objections must be served upon the Petitioner, and any known Respondent(s), on or before the first Court hearing.