Surrogate’s Statutes

The principal implementing statutes under which the Surrogate’s Court functions are the N.Y. Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) and the N.Y. Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL). Both the SCPA and EPTL took effect on September 1, 1967. The SCPA, which superseded the N.Y. Surrogate’s Court Act (SCA), governs the practice and procedure in all proceedings commenced in the Surrogate’s Court. Although the EPTL is concerned largely with the substantive law of estates and trusts, certain of its provisions, such as time limitations and conditions of performance, may control the Court’s exercise of jurisdiction.

Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act 201 is the basic grant to the court of subject-matter jurisdiction. This section is intended to codify, undiminished, all the court’s preexisting powers and to provide a base for the legislature to expand that jurisdiction in the future.

In enacting SCPA 201, the legislature intended to give the Surrogate’s Court sufficiently broad jurisdiction to enable it to dispose completely of all matters within its ken, thereby making it unnecessary for parties to go to different courts to request relief in related matters.

In accordance with the constitutional mandate that the Surrogate’s Court exercise such equity jurisdiction as may be provided by law, the legislature, by enacting SCPA 201(2), bestowed upon the court “full equity jurisdiction as to any action, proceeding or other matter over which jurisdiction is or may be conferred.” It has been consistently held that the Surrogate’s Court may exercise equitable jurisdiction to the extent required in the orderly administration of an estate or other proceeding over which the court has jurisdiction.

Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act 201(3) provides that “the court shall continue to exercise full and complete general jurisdiction in law and in equity to administer justice in all matters relating to estates and the affairs of decedents.”18 This subdivision is basically a restatement of SCA section 40. Although incorporating subdivision 3 into SCPA 201 may seem redundant in light of the general grant of jurisdiction set forth in the subdivision, it was included to codify the prior case law interpretations of SCA section 40.

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