Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Surrogate's Court makes me hyperventilate. In theory I should like the fact that there is a whole separate code of procedure for it-- I am a procedure maven, after all. In reality however it presents as a dense thicket full of odd nomenclature and potential traps. When I was practicing full-time in New York City the Surrogate's Court impressed me as a hotbed of corruption, filled with clerks who had their hands out, and since I moved to Western New York I have had essentially no dealings with the institution. Since I'm a tort lawyer I stick to the regular trial courts. When we've had wrongful death matters the estate stuff has been handled by the referring attorney, and I've made it my practice to submit the compromise petition to the Supreme Court judge who had the case, rather in Surrogate's. Supreme Court and Surrogate's are courts of concurrent jurisdiction, and that's good enough for me. All that said, right now I am in the process of commencing a death action and having to get limited letters of administration issued. Surprisingly, the standard formbooks, and even the more specialized treatises don't really tell you how to go about this in the context that I am working in-- if you want to petition for limited letters you have to go to the Surrogate's Court Procedure Act (the SCPA, which always makes me think of Superboy's dog Krypto) and work from there. Fortunately, the clerks in the county where I am doing this are incredibly helpful, which has smoothed my path considerably.

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