MORRIS COUNTY — On Wednesday February 5, at 8:30 a.m., the Morris County Surrogate’s Office and Morris County Bar Association will present a special program for attorneys to detail the new Reduced Fee Referral Program being offered in the Surrogate’s Court for wills and guardianship and probate matters.
The program will offer a general overview of the program, including how attorney’s may participate and qualifications required of attorneys. Surrogate Heather J. Darling strongly recommends that attorneys interested in participating in this program recently introduced by the Surrogate’s Office and Bar Association attend this information session.
It will be held in the County Administration and Records Building at 10 Court Street in Morristown, in the Freeholder Board’s public meeting room on the Fifth floor.
The Reduced Fee Referral Program matches 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. 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 residents 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.
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.
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.
“We want to ensure that as many people as possible have access to counsel as they navigate 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, 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.