When a person dies without a Last Will and Testament he is said to have died intestate. In these cases the decedent’s estate is distributed pursuant to the laws of intestacy. Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) section 4-1.1 entitled “Descent and distribution of a decedent’s estate”, provides the list of persons who are entitled to receive a share of the intestate estate. The New York Probate Lawyer Blog contains many articles discussing estate administration.
If kinship is not difficult to determine, the priority list of beneficiaries under EPTL 4-1.1 controls estate distribution. When a person dies without a spouse or children, his distributees are his parents. However, under EPTL 4-1.4 entitled “Disqualification of parent to take intestate share”, a parent can be prevented from receiving his share of a decedent’s estate if he either fails or refuses to provide for a child or abandons the child. Thus, if the parent does not support a child he can lose his inheritance. An abandonment qualifies for the same result.
While instances of such disqualifications are not common, there are cases where the parent forfeits his rights. In a Bronx estate case entitled Estate of Umezurike decided on September 9, 2019 by Bronx Surrogate Nelida Malave-Gonzalez, a father was found to have been disqualified from receiving his share of proceeds from a wrongful death action when his son died.
The testimony in the case was contradictory from the petitioner mother and the objectant father. However, the Court found that overall, the father did not provide the continuous care and guidance that the statute requires to avoid a finding of abandonment.
These types of cases are typically controlled by the facts which reflect a parent’s overall involvement with the support, care and upbringing of a child. Other statutes in the EPTL such as 5-1.2 deal with the disqualification of a surviving spouse. Abandonment is one of the possible reasons upon which a spouse can be found to have forfeited an inheritance right. Disqualification cases involve complex estate litigation in the Surrogate’s Court. If you have a question or issue regarding an estate or disqualification or kinship, call me now for a free review. We provide reasonable and flexible fee arrangements and personal representation.
New York Trusts and Estates Attorney Jules Martin Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to probate and estate settlement throughout New York City including Queens County, the Bronx and Brooklyn. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.