New York Estate Administration May Involve Issues of Kinship and Domicile

When a person dies without a Last Will and Testament he is deemed to have died intestate. As discussed in many earlier posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, where there is an intestate decedent, a petition needs to be filed with the Surrogate’s Court seeking Letters of Administration.

The estate administrator has similar statutory powers to those of an executor where a person leaves a Will. There are numerous issues that can arise in the context of intestate administration. A recent case decided on October 9, 2015 by Brooklyn Surrogate Diana Johnson entitled Estate of Evans provides an interesting analysis of just some of the legal and factual complexities.In Evans the Estate Administrator filed her accounting with the Court for judicial settlement. As discussed in earlier blog posts, a fiduciary provides an accounting to estate beneficiaries when it is time to settle the estate. One of the issues that the Administrator wanted the Court to decide was whether a person who claimed to be a distributee (next of kin) of the decedent had lost their right to inherit due to their adoption by a non-family member. First, the Court needed to determine the proper state law to apply to determine the claimant’s status. The proper state law would be determined by the decedent’s place of domicile. Domicile is the location where a person has their main home as opposed to just various residences. When a person has many residences it is sometimes difficult to determine the one place that is the domicile.

In Evans, the Court found that the decedent’s domicile was New York and not Virginia since the decedent had lived in New York most of his life and had only traveled intermittently to Virginia and had not permanently moved to that state.

Since the Court found that New York was the decedent’s domicile, it applied New York law and found that the adoption eliminated the claimant from having any rights to inherit from the decedent regarding New York real property. As a result, the decedent’s New York real estate was not subject to any claim of inheritance by the adopted-out claimant. Also, the adopted-out child would not be entitled to any share of the decedent’s personal property.

As can be seen from Evans, Estate Administration can present many complex issues regarding domicile, kinship and estate settlement. All of these matters sometimes require resolution in Surrogate’s Court Proceedings such as Kinship Proceedings or Accounting Proceedings. I have represented may family members and estate interested parties in connection with these matters. If you have a question regarding estate administration or a Surrogate’s Court proceeding call me now for a free review at (212) 355-2575.

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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