When a person dies without a Last Will he is said to have died intestate. The Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) and the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) have numerous provisions that control intestate proceedings. These provisions have been discussed in a number of earlier posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog.
For example, EPTL Section 4-1.1 entitled “Descent and distribution of a decedent’s estate”, sets forth the persons who have a right to receive a share of the intestate estate. As expected, a spouse and children have the primary right to share the estate. If there is no surviving spouse or child, then the next individuals in line to inherit are the decedent’s parents and, if none, to brothers and sisters. The statute then continues to provide for more remote heirs.In order to settle an intestate estate, Article 10 of the SCPA entitled “Intestate Administration”, provides the guidelines for the appointment of an estate administrator. New York Estate Administration Lawyers are familiar with the provisions of the SCPA and EPTL. A Petition for Letters of Administration must be filed with the Surrogate’s Court so that an Administrator can be appointed who has the legal authority to collect the decedent’s assets and settle all estate matters. As part of completing the Petition, complete information must be provided to the Surrogate’s Court regarding all of the decedent’s next of kin or distributees. There may be more than one person who has an equal right to be appointed as Administrator. Also, the Court must know the identity of all persons who are to receive a share of the decedent’s estate. In many cases there may be Estate Litigation regarding who the Court should appoint as the Estate Administrator.
The Courts are very strict regarding the need for full disclosure regarding the identity of all possible next of kin. In situations where there is a question regarding a person’s distributees, the Court may need to have a Kinship Hearing. If certain heirs cannot be located, the Court will require that a due diligent search be performed for their whereabouts. The Courts will not accept any misleading or incomplete information regarding heirship.
In a recent case entitled Estate of Williams, Bronx Surrogate Nelida Malave-Gonzalez was presented with an application to suspend and revoke letters of administration that were issued to the son of the decedent. The son had falsely represented to the Court that he was the decedent’s sole distributee. In a decision dated March 18, 2016, the Court determined that there were, in fact, other heirs of the decedent. The Court then revoked the son’s letters of administration pursuant to SCPA Section 711 paragraphs 4 and 8.
As can be seen from the Williams case, it is important to provide the Court with complete information regarding a decedent’s heirs. I have assisted clients with many intestate estate proceedings including the search for heirs and Kinship Cases. If you have a question regarding the appointment of an Estate Administrator or Estate Administration, call me now for a free discussion.
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 Manhattan 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.
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