Each county has a Surrogate's Court and the Surrogate is the Judge of that court. She is elected for a term of 5 years, pursuant to the Constitution of New Jersey, by the people of the county in which she has jurisdiction. Today, the County Surrogate is the Judge of the Surrogate’s Court which is almost certain to touch the lives of every person in the county at some time.
Aside from the appointment of a guardian for a minor who comes into an
estate, or the supervision of an adoption, or a sanity hearing, for
example, it is increasingly common, after a death, to visit the
Surrogate's Court for the appointment of someone to handle the estate of
the deceased. In New Jersey, the person who passes on the validity of a
will, gives the executor proof of his authority to administer the
estate and sees to it that the executor handles the estate properly, is
called the Surrogate.
The word "Surrogate" means "one who takes the place of another." The
Surrogate in each county is actually taking the place of the governor,
who in 1710 received from the Archbishop of London the authority as the
Archbishop's "Ordinary" or Surrogate General to probate wills, issue
marriage licenses and perform those functions which at that time were in
the province of the Church.
That power, eventually distributed
by the governor, then the governor of the Crown Colony of New Jersey,
and subsequently the Governor of the State of New Jersey to his
Surrogates, was recognized by subsequent New Jersey Legislatures in
statutes which codified the powers and duties of the Surrogates, and by
the Constitutions which fixed their terms.