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Atlantic County Surrogate

The Surrogate’s Court is a Department of County Government as well as a branch of the Superior Court of New Jersey, in the Chancery Division. The Surrogate is a Constitutional Officer who is elected to the position every five years. The Surrogate serves as Deputy Clerk of the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Probate Part as well as Judge of the Surrogate’s Court.Today, the main function of the Surrogate is to probate wills and appoint administrators of estates.

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  • James Curcio
    (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Stephen Dicht
    (Dem)

Biographical Information

Please describe for voters the duties of the Surrogate.

In your view, what are the biggest issues facing the Surrogate's Office at this time?

Why are you the best qualified to serve as Surrogate?

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Campaign Address Post Office Box 3068 Margate, NJ 08402
Facebook Page F/Dicht for Surrogate
Twitter @64PhilliesFan
The Surrogate is a Constitutional Office with a 5 year term. It is part of County government and also has a quasi-judicial role. The County Surrogate appoints executors and administrators in probate matters and also appoints guardians for minors and incapacitated persons. The Office is also responsible for overseeing contested Estate matters, declaring individuals incapacitated, appointing guardiands and granting adoptions. The Surrogate is also the custodian of records of estates, wills, guardianships and adoptions. In some cases records may be hundreds of years of age. The Surrogate also is custodian of millions of dollars of funds held in the names of minors who have been awarded funds through settlements, inheritances, or as beneficiaries of life insurance. The Surrogate is also empowered to conduct marriages. My plan is to consult with other Surrogates from around the State and see what services are being provided by those offices and enlarge the duties of the Surrogate. My plan id for this to be a full-time position. I will not do any outside legal work of any kind. The current Surrogate maintains his law office telephone number on his Facebook page and also has a private office. I will have neither. .
The Atlantic County Surrogate's Office has grown stale and stagnant under the current occupant. The Office needs a complete overhaul in terms of its operations. The Office does not have an identity crisis, it has a lack of identity. When I campaign and tell people what office I am seeking, invariably I get a puzzled or curious look. It is rare that anyone has heard of the Surrogate's Office, let alone knows what the Surrogate does or who is the Surrogate. I plan to change that through educating the public through social media, speaking engagements and any other means possible. After 10 years in office, the current occupant has failed miserably in his responsibilty to the public. The Atlantic County Surrogate has the worst website of any in the State. I know this because I have compared them. The Atlantic County website provides the bare minimum amount of information to anyone seeking to find out about the functions of the office. There are numerous items that can and will be provided under my leadership. For example, there are: 1) no annual reports, 2) no geneology informations, 3) no abilty to search probabte records, 4, no public outreach section, and many others. I will scrap the current website and start over as if one did not exist. I will better educate the public on the benefits of having a Will. Too often individuals learn the hard way when a loved one dies without a Will. I will conduct Will drives where Atlantic County residents can obtain either a free or a low cost will through a partnership with the Atlantic County Bar Association and friends who are attorneys. I intend to be a very active Surrogate.
There are no actual qualifications to be a Surrogate. The Office deals with probate, guardianships, adoptions and other legal matters, some have argued a lawyer is best suited for the position. Many counties currently have non-lawyers serving in the Office. I have been a lawyer for over 40 years, licensed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In my private practice I have handled cases of all types involving matters handled by the Surrogate. I have represented countless executors and administrators in estate administration. I have represented clients in adoptions, guardianships and incompetents. I have the highest possible rating by my peers in the legal community, an AV by legal publisher Marftindale Hubbell. Other lawyers and judges consider me to have the highest possible integrity and legal skills. I have had this rating for approximately 25 years. I am also proud to say I have an unblemished record in disciplinary matters, not even a minor infraction, in contrast to the incumbent Surrogate who was suspended by the NJ Supreme Court for serious ethical violations. My opponent is also responsible for appointing a guardian of elderly estates who stole millions of dollars and no reforms were implemented. I understand the job of Surrogate is one of public trust and I would work for the public not the other way around. I have never depended on the public for my livelihood, unlike my opponent who is a career politician who has served 26 years in one public position or another.