Nassau County Surrogate Edward McCarty III likes to begin his weekly Wednesday calendar call with a folksy chat to the usually packed courtroom. This week, the judge lamented the recent decision of the state to make new staff cuts of court personnel. The court is now losing its cashier as well as the clerk responsible for indexing new matters as they are filed.

Wow! Considering that a relatively small estate generates a $625 filing fee for the state and above half million dollars the fee is double that, Nassau County Surrogate’s Court is a real money maker. The Surrogate bar has also long regarded this court as the gold standard for surrogate’s courts in New York. That is unfortunately going to change since there are simply not enough folks left in critical positions here to make the wheels turn smoothly, process cases and get out a steady stream of well-written decisions.

Not long ago, a lawyer submitting a complete probate package with no problems obtaining jurisdiction on a relatively simple estate matter could advise his or her clients that Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration could issue in about eight days. We are now up to four to six weeks and the projected cutbacks already in the pipeline will no doubt increase the wait substantially. Imagine waiting up to 90 days for a simple estate to process so that mom and dad’s home could be sold, stock accounts liquidated and surviving relatives can just get on with their lives.

Your lawblogger has never been a big fan of trusts. I have always felt that the probate process offered a level of protection and helped to insure that a decedent’s wishes would better be known and followed. I have always felt that the word “closure” is not a good as it is cracked up to be. Now, however , it may be time to take a fresh look at living trusts. They circumvent the probate process and provide a smooth transition of a family’s business and speed up the disposition of assets when a loved one dies. It may cost more to do a living trust but it is becoming a lot neater and simpler way to wrap up one’s earthly affairs.