Since taking office, Surrogate Michael Dressler has routinely visited community centers, local businesses and organizations throughout the year to promote education and understanding of serious issues such as the importance of wills, probate procedures, administration of estates, estate tax consequences, powers of attorney, medical directives and guardianships. In doing so, the Surrogate has come in contact with over 60,000 Bergen County residents.

“As your Surrogate, I wish to help you to plan for the legacy that you will work a lifetime to achieve and to safeguard that legacy for future generations” advocates Judge Michael Dressler. “As such, I propose a brief presentation to review these documents and the services of the Surrogate’s Court followed by a question and answer period.”

During the presentation, the Surrogate defines probate as the authentication of a Last Will & Testament, outlines the importance of having a Last Will & Testament, and stresses the importance of seeking legal counsel and potential tax consequences for those who die intestate (without a Last Will & Testament). During the presentation, the Surrogate will express that sitting down with an attorney and drawing up a plan to protect one’s legacy, the money and property that one has worked a lifetime to achieve, is something we must all consider.

“What may work for one person may not work for the person sitting next to them,” said Judge Dressler. “There are no ‘cookie-cutter answers’ to estate planning; it is important to sit down with an attorney who understands what you are trying to do and who is going to give you feedback.”

The Surrogate will also comment on and answer questions related to the guardianship of minor children, adoptions, advance directives, living wills and estate taxes, as well as highlight historical information that includes but is often not limited to the following facts: the Surrogate's function, along with the County Clerk and the Sheriff, dates back to colonial times; the Surrogate reviews and probates all wills in Bergen County, appoints executors, administrators and guardians of both minors and mentally incapacitated adults. In addition, the presentation highlights the fact that the Surrogate handles matters of adoption and oversees the investment of monies on behalf of children who receive judgments in the Bergen County courts.

“It is my belief that the responsibilities of my position extend far beyond the walls of my office in Hackensack,” said Surrogate Dressler. “I firmly believe that time spent on education is extremely valuable and will help to ensure that our families will be taken care of after we are gone, to provide us with the confidence that our money and property will live on in a manner of our own design.

The Surrogate’s Court has published several editions of “How to Probate a Last Will & Testament in the Bergen County Surrogate’s Court” in English, Spanish & Korean and has made that booklet available in PDF format via this website as well, because the last thing we want is for one of our friends and neighbors to reach our office at a difficult time in their lives without being prepared. If you would like to schedule a meeting do not hesitate to call our office at (201) 336-6700.

“I have published several editions this booklet in English, Korean and Spanish to help all of the residents of Bergen County to plan for the legacy that they have worked their entire lives to achieve, and I am pleased that they are so popular,” said Bergen County Surrogate Michael R. Dressler. “The last thing I want is for someone to reach my office and to have not had an opportunity to review critical information, or to find out that their recently deceased loved ones were not prepared.”

These 2016 editions include four additional sections on Federal Estate Tax, Frequently Asked Questions, Outreach, and The History of the Court. These editions also include an important clarification in the matter of executor commissions in the State of New Jersey stating that “executor commissions are only allowable on ‘probate assets’ and on real estate which comes into the hands of the executor.”

The presentation typically lasts 20 minutes, after which I would be happy to answer any questions that you and your members may have about probate, related documents and the services of the Surrogate’s Court. There is no charge for these speaking engagements. It is our pleasure to serve you and to help prepare you, your family and friends for your time of need.

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