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Verified Objections in the Surrogate’s Court

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{Read in 4 Minutes}  As a Trusts and Estates attorney, I frequently litigate in the Surrogate’s Court. The Surrogate’s Court handles the affairs of deceased people, ranging from probate proceedings, Administration proceedings, Accounting proceedings, Guardianship proceedings, or reviewing the actions of an Executor or Administrator and potentially removing them.

In any of these proceedings, there is someone who is requesting relief from the Court. That person is called the Petitioner. The Petitioner will file papers with the Court asking for particular relief and the Court will then issue a Citation to the interested parties to that proceeding, who are called Respondents.

In some situations, the Respondents may be afforded the ability to take depositions or conduct other forms of discovery prior to making their positions known. However, those Respondents who affirmatively oppose the relief the Petitioner is seeking will become Objectants. Formally, they become Objectants by filing Verified Objections.

Verified Objections is a document that one files with the Surrogate’s Court (and pays a filing fee for doing so). The Objections should provide a clear and concise reason why the Objectant is opposing the relief that the Petitioner requests from the Courts. Is it because the Petitioner thinks that the Court should not probate the Will because the Deceased lacked testamentary capacity? Is it because the Objectant has been left out of a Will? Or maybe the Objectant is upset in an accounting proceeding because the Public Administrator did not list them among the people entitled to a distribution, and they want to demand a kinship proceeding. For whatever reason, the Objectants may have some concerns and the Court gives the Objectant the ability to be heard on it. However, in order for the Court and the other parties to know what the Objectant’s gripe is, filing Verified Objections is a necessary step.

The word verified in Verified Objections means that the party making it is signing a statement before a Notary Public stating that the contents of the document are true to the best of their knowledge and belief. This is to prevent people from making wild statements and forcing Courts to decide issues that are not based in law, fact, or logic. 

When deciding whether or not to file Verified Objections, it’s up to the Respondent (soon to be an Objectant) whether or not they wish to hire an attorney. For those who do wish to hire an attorney, these are the conversations they should be having. For those that wish to proceed pro se (without an attorney), they should be sure that their Verified Objections meet the requirements. Many Surrogate’s Courts have self-help centers and might even provide fill-in-the-blank forms for those who are self-represented.

In either situation, it’s worth it to put the time into getting the Objections to be clear and concisely stated so that the proceeding can proceed, and the parties might have the opportunity to resolve it either through a trial with a jury or by reaching a settlement before the case goes to trial.

For more information on this topic, please contact me