In situations where a decedent does not leave a Last Will and Testament, the Court must be satisfied that it has received complete kinship information. This is because both the appointment of the estate administrator and the ultimate distribution of estate assets are based upon identifying the decedent’s next of kin or distributees.
Most of the time, it will not be difficult to certify the identities of the decedent’s distributees. There may be a surviving spouse and children born during the marriage. However, particular issues arise when an alleged child is born outside of a marriage and the claims of inheritance relate to a deceased father. In order to inherit from a deceased father, a child must prove paternity. New York estate law provides a specific statute to cover this issue. Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 4-1.2, entitled “Inheritance by non-marital children,” sets forth the details required for determining whether a non-marital child is a legitimate child of his father. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published numerous articles concerning this issue.
Interestingly, the statute begins by providing that a non-marital child “is the legitimate child of his mother” for purposes of inheritance. However, when it comes to paternity, there are a number of avenues of proof that can be utilized. One of the most common ways of demonstrating paternity is by showing through clear and convincing evidence that the father “openly and notoriously acknowledged the child as his own.”