It is important to know that when a person dies intestate (without a Last Will), his estate is distributed to his closest next of kin. Additionally, these persons, known under the statute as distributees, have the right to be appointed as the Administrator of the estate.
Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) Section 1001 entitled “Order of priority for granting letters of administration”, sets forth the persons who have the right to be appointed. The list begins with the decedent’s surviving spouse, then his children, then grandchildren and continues with relatives of more distant connection.The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has discussed many cases and issues involving proof of Kinship and unknown heirs. When a Court is presented with a petition to appoint an Administrator, it usually requires a Kinship Affidavit that provides the information showing the identity of family members who have a right to act as Administrator and receive an estate interest. In cases where the Kinship information is incomplete or contested, the Court typically requires a Kinship Hearing or other verified proof so that the identity of the estate beneficiaries and fiduciaries can be validly determined.
I have represented many individuals in connection with proof of kinship. In a recent Bronx Administration case a dispute concerning kinship arose. The case is entitled Estate of Plummer and it was decided by Bronx Surrogate Nelida Malave-Gonzalez on January 18, 2018. In Plummer, the decedent’s daughter claimed that a person alleging to be the son of the decedent was an imposter. As a method to resolve the estate litigation, the Court directed that both the claiming son and daughter arrange for a DNA test to be performed and to provide the results to the Court.
Proof of kinship can be obtained through DNA testing. However, in many kinship cases, especially cousin cases, the Court requires a hearing where evidence in the form of death certificates, marriage certificates and birth records are presented to show the parties relationship to the decedent.
Court cases where kinship needs to be proved can be complicated especially where the decedent has been out of contact with his family or the potential family members are in locations that are out-of-state or even overseas. Call me now for a free review if you have a question or issue regarding estate Kinship.
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.