The identity of a decedent’s heirs at law are an essential element in all probate and intestate administration cases. There have been numerous posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog that examine this issue. When a Last Will is offered for probate, the person petitioning for the Will’s admission to probate must provide the Court with the names and addresses of the decedent’s distributees (i.e., next of kin). Distributees require notice of the proceeding because they have a right to object to the Will.
A New York City Estate Attorney typically obtains kinship information from a person when they are preparing an estate plan and Last Will. This information can sometimes be invaluable when preparing the probate papers. It is possible that there are no family members or friends who may have complete family tree information. If the probate petitioner cannot provide the information on distributees a due diligent search must be made for the next of kin. This search may require that services of professional investigators such as genealogists be obtained. Also, the Court may require that a Court Citation be directed to all unknown distributees. The Citation must be published in a local newspaper.
Providing notification to all required family members is not limited to estate law in New York. A recent article in blog.wenn.com on February 27, 2017 entitled “David Bowie’s Lawyers Issue Notice for Secret Heirs to Come Forward” describes the handling of the estate for the late rock star David Bowie. The article states that under English law a notice published in The Times requires that anyone who claims to have a right to inherit from the estate has two months to file their claims.
Similar issues arise in intestate administration cases. In these matters the Court is required to know the identity of the decedent’s distributees because these are the individuals who have a right to inherit as well as possibly be appointed as an estate administrator. In many administration matters the closest living relatives are determined to be cousins or even more remote descendants. Under these circumstances the Court might appoint the local Public Administrator to act as the estate administrator. The Court may also need to hold a Kinship Hearing to determine the rights of the claimed distributees to obtain a distributive share of the estate. Kinship Hearings in Surrogate’s Court can be complex and require the presentation of evidence such as birth, death and marriage records.
Call me now for a free review of your issue regarding kinship or a probate or administration proceeding. I have represented many individuals in the Surrogate’s Court regarding probating a Will and intestate distribution rights.
New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in New York Trusts and Estates matters and Surrogate’s Court proceedings throughout the past 30 years in New York, including Queens and Nassau Counties. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a New York Estate, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org, for an initial consultation.