New York Kinship Cases Can Require Complex Proof of Heirship

All Estate cases involve determining the next of kin of the decedent. In a probate proceeding where a person dies and leaves a Last Will, the estate rules and procedures mandate that the decedent’s distributees (next of kin) be provided with official notice of the case. New York Estate lawyers have experience in preparing the probate petition and affidavit of kinship that the Surrogate’s Court wants to review before admitting a Last Will to probate.

In many instances a decedent dies intestate meaning there is no Will. As discussed in earlier posts in the New York Probate Lawyer Blog, where a person dies intestate, his estate is distributed to his next of kin. However, proving a person’s kinship presents many problems. Quite often a decedent is not survived by a close relative such as a spouse or child or even a sibling or niece or nephew. It may turn out that a decedent’s closest relative is a cousin. Kinship proceedings or kinship hearings are very common in what are known as cousin cases.The Surrogate’s Court in New York such as Manhattan Surrogate’s Court and Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court require that in order to prove kinship documents such as certified death certificates, marriage certificates, birth certificates, divorce records and other family tree proof in the form of census files and immigration records be presented at a formal hearing.  It may be very difficult and time- consuming to obtain this information particularly in situations where the decedent’s family may have been living in different states or countries and the whereabouts of some family members may have not been known for decades.

I have represented many family members in kinship cases where the need to find proof of kinship was very complicated and time-consuming. Sometimes, it is necessary to use the services of professional genealogists to help search for missing heirs and establish a family tree that will satisfy the Court Kinship requirements.

Professional kinship researches often review probate court records and contact persons who they determine may be missing heirs. A recent article posted by Courtney Holmes on November 4, 2015 entitled “Valley woman questions inheritance letter” describes one person’s experience regarding being contacted by a professional researcher. As pointed out in the post, the prospective next of kin has a full right to pursue their kinship proof on their own or to retain their own private attorney to represent them with their kinship proof.

Proving kinship usually entails accumulating family historical records and testimony that the Court will accept as valid evidence to show that the person claiming to be a surviving heir such as a cousin or niece or nephew is entitled to receive the decedent’s estate assets.  If you have any questions or issues regarding an estate kinship proceeding or kinship issue call me now for a free review.

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.

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