New York Heirs Must Demonstrate Their Relationship to a Descendant

fundamental aspect of estate cases in Surrogate’s Court is that all necessary persons be given proper notice of the proceedings. For the most part, individuals who are interested parties are the decedent’s next of kin or distributees.

Many posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog discuss the need to prove or demonstrate a person’s kinship to a decedent. In probate cases, the probate petition that is filed with the Court must list all of the decedent’s distributees. These persons must receive notice of the probate proceeding since they would have a right to Contest a Will if they felt that the probate was improper. Among the various grounds to contest a will are lack of due execution, lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence.When a person dies without a Last Will (“intestate”), the distributees have the right to receive a distributive share of the decedent’s estate. Again, it is important to precisely determine the identity of the distributees. In many probate and intestate administration cases, there may be difficulty in determining and proving a decedent’s heirs. It is not uncommon for Estate Lawyers to be requested by persons claiming to be heirs to assist them regarding a Kinship Hearing. Kinship cases require that the persons claiming to be distributees provide proof in the form of family tree evidence, such as documents like birth, death and marriage records, to confirm their rights of inheritance.

I have been involved in many Kinship Proceedings in the Surrogate’s Court where it was necessary to demonstrate that a client was entitled to exercise their rights as an estate heir.  Of course, the Courts are very strict in reviewing the information that is presented in support of heirship. The Surrogate’s Court wants to be absolutely certain regarding the authenticity of a person’s claims to be a next of kin of the decedent.

A recent case decided by Staten Island Surrogate Robert Gigante on September 6, 2016 entitled the Estate of Blum, shows the need for the Court to receive detailed and complete heirship information. In Blum, a petitioner had claimed that based upon an alleged physical resemblance between the decedent and the petitioner’s uncle, the petitioner had the right to pursue his claim of kinship. In furtherance of proving his kinship, the petitioner asked the Court to direct that petitioner’s DNA be tested in comparison with that of the decedent and that the decedent’s body be exhumed for such testing.

After discussing the issues presented, the Court denied both requests by the petitioner. The Court found that the petitioner had failed to provide sufficient evidence regarding any family relationship between the petitioner and the decedent other than the alleged physical resemblance between the decedent and petitioner’s uncle. The Court stated that additional verifiable evidence of a family relationship was needed to support the further requirement for DNA testing.

There have been many cases where I have represented persons regarding proof of kinship. Call me now to discuss any issue regarding kinship or estate administration.

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.

Jules Martin Haas provides his clients and members of the community with a free monthly e-newsletter which contains articles covering a variety of legal topics including estate planning, financial matters and real estate. If you wish to be placed on the e-newslist, simply e-mail me at You can cancel receiving the newsletter at anytime.

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