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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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League Installs Officers; Marcolongo: ‘Don’t Kill Grandma’

Surrogate Dean Marcolongo

By Erin Ledwon

OCEAN CITY – The Cape May County League of Municipalities installed its 2020 officers Jan. 29 at The Flanders Hotel, Ocean City.
They are: President Shaine Meier, Cape May City Council member; First Vice President Joseph Johnson III, Woodbine Borough Council member; Second Vice President Barbara Juzaitis, Avalon Borough Council member; Secretary Shannon Romano, Sea Isle City municipal clerk; and Treasurer William Kehner, Sea Isle City Council member.
Freeholder E. Marie Hayes administered the oath of office.
 
Surrogate’s Office
Surrogate Dean Marcolongo, as the guest speaker, provided an overview of his position.
He said the surrogate, a constitutional officer, is the only elected judge in the state, with one in each county, and serves for a term of five years.
“It’s a court of limited jurisdiction,” he said. “I can only handle matters that are uncontested.”
Marcolongo explained the Surrogate’s Office handles mostly wills and estates, adding, “Everybody should have a will because if you don’t have a will, it causes a lot of heartache and difficulties for your family.”
It’s not all death and dying at the Surrogate Court, assured Marcolongo. All adoptions are processed through the Surrogate’s Office, as well as guardianships, most of which are as a result of disabled children who have turned 18.
“The parents who have been taking care of these children all their lives now have to come into court, pay the money, pay for an attorney, all to be appointed as the guardian of their children that they’ve been taking care of,” said Marcolongo.
The surrogate also handles minor intermingled funds. “If the child receives money through an inheritance, and the child is under 18, the money is deposited in my court, we invest it for them until they turn 18 years old, or whatever age the will said that they’re supposed to get the money, or if a child receives a recovery in a personal injury accident, again the monies are all put into a fund at my office,” he said.
He added that he’s holding money for 85 children at about $3 million.
“Parents can apply to have some of that money released in order to take care of the children,” he said. Parents must write a letter to the Superior Court judge with a reason for wanting the money released.
“We’ve heard them all (reasons),” said Marcolongo. He cited good reasons, including the child is 17 years old and is starting college early, or needs braces. He also cited not-so-good reasons, including to pay the mortgage, real-estate taxes, cable bill, buy furniture for the child’s room, etc.   
“Sometimes, the parents are trying to use the money, not for the children’s benefit, but for their own,” he added.
The surrogate is also authorized to perform weddings, according to Marcolongo.
“The Surrogate’s Office is kind of boring,” said Marcolongo, but admitted that head-scratching moments occur on a weekly basis. He mentioned that, in his office, there are three active cases “where somebody is alleging that somebody killed somebody intentionally in order to get their inheritance.”
He said that he’s amazed by how many people “come in and flat-out lie to us,” normally having to do with money. He cited an instance where two siblings, whose relative died, claimed they were the only two relatives and there was no will, until the third sibling called the Surrogate’s Office and produced the will, which cut the two siblings out.   
Takeaways from his presentation, according to Marcolongo, were:
* How to raid one’s child’s minor fund.
* Not to write on wills.
* If one doesn’t have a will, the administrator’s going to have to get a bond and sometimes that bond is difficult.
*Do estate planning by doing the will, and sometimes one can be creative in order to save on taxes.
* Don’t kill grandma.

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