New York Kinship Cases Require Proof of Maternal and Paternal Heirs

Surrogate’s Court cases in New York are identified by a number of different proceedings.  There are, for example, probate proceedings and intestate administration proceedings.   There are also accounting proceedings in which the estate administrator and executor provides an account of his transactions to the interested parties who can approve or object to the account.

All of these types of cases require that interested parties be notified so that they can protect their interests. For example, in a probate case, the decedent’s distributees (next of kin) must be notified so that they have an opportunity to file objections to a Will. In an administration proceeding, the decedent’s next of kin need to be identified since they are entitled to share in the estate distribution.The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has provided many posts discussing the issues created when a decedent’s next of kin cannot be identified or located. When the distributees of a decedent are unknown, the person who is petitioning the Court for appointment must provide the Court with complete kinship information. In order to obtain this data, diligent efforts must be undertaken to ascertain the needed parties.

New York City Estate Lawyers often retain the services of professional genealogists to research a decedent’s family history.  This research may involve obtaining many different types of documents including birth, death and marriage records.  Many times  the research must be performed in out-of-state locations or even outside the United States.

Another situation that often occurs is that a Kinship Hearing is necessary in connection with the settlement of an accounting by a fiduciary. When a person dies and no heirs are known to exist or the closest possible heir in relation is a cousin, the estate is handled by the local Public Administrator. The Public Administrator is a government official whose duties are to deal with these estate matters. At the cousin level of heirship, the estate needs to be distributed to maternal and paternal heirs. Locating heirs on both sides of a decedent’s family can present a challenge. The heirs who are claiming an interest must present verifiable evidence as to their right to inherit.

A recent case decided by Manhattan Surrogate Rita Mella on May 24, 2017 entitled Estate of Thompson, is an example of some of the aspects of a Kinship Court case. In Thompson, the Manhattan Public Administrator filed a proceeding to settle his account. In connection with the accounting proceeding the Court required that a hearing be held to determine kinship. Apparently, the maternal distributees were able to show that they were entitled to receive the one-half share of the estate that was to be paid to the maternal side of decedent’s family. However, since there as no proof as to the paternal distributees, the Court directed that the paternal share be deposited with the New York City Commission of Finance pending further proof. The maternal distributees argued that there was sufficient proof to show that no paternal distributees existed and, therefore, the maternal distributees should be entitled to receive the entire estate. The Court disagreed and found that there was no conclusive proof that paternal distributees did not exist. Thus, the Court required the paternal share to be deposited with the Finance Dept.

I have represented many individuals in probate and administration cases involving kinship hearings, cousin cases and kinship proof. If you have a question regarding estate kinship or estate settlement, call me now to discuss your issue.

New York City estate attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq. has been representing clients in Estate Administration proceedings throughout the past 30 years.  I have represented clients in many counties including Suffolk and Westchester Counties.  If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a Last Will or other aspects of Probate or Estate Administration, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.


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