This evening your lawblogger attended a seminar in the courtroom at the Nassau County Surrogate’s Court. The speakers were the clerks of the Surrogate’s Courts in several Long Island counties as well as New York County. The program underscored the differences between procedure in different counties.

It was, for example, interesting to note how certain counties (e.g., Nassau) put great stock in the use of genealogists to establish a family tree while others (New York) consider a genealogist to be a waste of time and money. Requirements for the information on petitions and due diligence differ between the counties. Some counties (such as Queens) rely on local forms to augment those mandated by the Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act . The requirements for serving a notice of probate also differ between counties.To spice things up, the state is experimenting with electronic case filing . Queens County is designated as a pilot jurisdiction in this regard.

It is therefore necessary to realize before filing a new estate or engaging in litigation that one size does not fit all. To ignore these differences is to risk incurring substantial delay or extra expense for the estate. While most attorneys are familiar with the venues where their practices are centered, a court two counties away might have some procedures diametrically different from the ones  which a particular lawyer may be used to.

The one important constant though is that the clerks were all uniformly interested in helping lawyers to access and utilize their courts and all were willing to provide information needed to understand procedural differences and adapt to them. The lesson is simply that it pays to make a phone call –if not a visit– to a surrogate’s clerk in a county where one has not previously practiced. A few questions will save time and money and greatly facilitate the ability to represent a client.