MORRIS COUNTY — Morris County’s new Surrogate Heather J. Darling, Esq., has announced a partnership between the Surrogate’s Office and the Morris County Bar Association’s Reduced Fee Referral Program to match attorneys with residents who cannot afford legal services and do not qualify for free or pro bono legal services.
This new program is offered at no cost to the taxpayers of Morris County.
“As a practitioner in the Surrogate’s Court for many years, I am familiar with the difficulties people face in trying to navigate the guardianship or probate processes without legal counsel when necessary legal counsel is unaffordable for them. For this reason, I am pleased that we were able to work with Jennifer McAndrew Vuotto and the Morris County Bar Association to bring this program to the citizens of Morris County,” Darling said.
Matters within the Surrogate’s Office, which are currently included in this program, are wills, guardianship and probate issues.
Guardianship includes a declaration of incapacitation to handle one’s own affairs. It can be a complicated matter for people who had been caregivers without the need for a court intervention.
Probate is another difficult matter for family members once a loved one has passed and grieving survivors learn the difficulty in administering the decedent’s estate.
In New Jersey, Title 3B is the statute which addresses guardianship and probate. The statute can be complex and difficult to navigate without legal training and practice.
“Bottom line, this program will be a way to bridge the gap for those who have been legally left behind,” said Deputy Surrogate Chris Luongo, Esq.
To participate in the program, individuals must qualify financially by demonstrating they fall within certain financial criteria, with eligibility limits higher than those of most pro-bono services.
“When we started this program, we wanted to ensure that as many people as possible had access to counsel as they navigated the Court system. There are many litigants who do not qualify for assistance, yet still, have difficulty affording an attorney. Those are the litigants we set out to help and have succeeded in helping the most,” said Vuotto, who is co-chair of the Morris County Bar Association Reduced Fee Referral Program.
Attorneys who want to participate in the program can apply through the Morris County Bar Association. They must have a demonstrated knowledge of matters within the Surrogate’s Court and the ability to undertake said matters in a timely and productive fashion.