MORRIS COUNTY — Morris Focus asked Morris County Surrogate for an update on her first three months in office. Here is her reply:
I am finishing up the first quarter of my first year as Morris County Surrogate. When I ran for this office, I had goals and ideas for myself and the office but I never knew the extent those goals would be impacted by an external source, Covid-19.
Nonetheless, in my first three months, we still accomplished several important goals.
First, we edited, updated and added to the Morris County Surrogate’s Manual, which had been discontinued in 2018. Now, for the first time ever, the book is also available through an online link at MorrisSurrogate.com, as it arrived from the printer just as our office closed to the public due to the virus.
Second, in conjunction with the Morris County Bar Association, we have implemented a low cost attorney program. This will provided low-cost attorney services to the Morris County Probate Court.
Third, we have designed a new website with more access to information, utility of probate forms, links to important services and partners and more. We are simply waiting for things to ease up for our IT department so that they have time to upload the new site.
As far as Covid-19, our office has always been one that dealt with the public face-to face, until the week of March 16, 2020. That week, we had to decide how to move forward in a manner that is safe for all yet still effective. Fortunately, our simple online forms, email, scanners, facsimile, mail and couriers have allowed us to continue to provide services. Although we are getting through this way, we are still coming to the office as an essential services provider that is helping widows and widowers obtain access to funds and assisting those in need of guardianships, particularly medical in nature, during this difficult time. It has also obviated the need for online access to the Surrogate’s Office which I discussed during my campaign for this office as something very necessary. I discussed the need for more online options as we moved to the point where millennials would be managing their parent’s care but the current health crisis seems to have propelled us forward into a more internet based society that is now here to stay.
Three months ago I could not have imagined that we would be living in the state we are today. That being said, I think that we must all remain positive and look forward to the future. I personally look forward to the day that I can resume meeting with groups to continue to discuss the Surrogate’s Office and why it is so important to be prepared for certain moments in life, as we see each day right now.
Morris County Surrogate Heather Darling, Esq.