A New York Administration Proceeding is typically required when a person dies intestate without leaving a Last Will and Testament. New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 4-1.1 provides the statutory guide for the intestate distribution of estate assets beginning with the decedent’s spouse and issue (i.e. children and their decedents). If no spouse or child survives then the property goes to the next class of living heirs such as parents, siblings and so on.
In many Administration proceedings, the identity and whereabouts of a decedent’s next of kin or distributees are unknown or only partially identifiable. This situation is more prevelant where the decedent never married or never had any children. So-called “cousin cases”, i.e: where the next of kin are cousins or even more distant heirs, usually require a kinship proceeding whereby the Surrogate’s Court can be satisfied as to the proper individuals to receive the decedent’s estate. New York Public Administrators are typically appointed to handle the estate administration in these cases. Generally, a kinship proceeding is the Court process whereby evidence in the form of documents, such as birth and death records, and the testimony of the decedent’s family and acquaintances is submitted to show relationship to the decedent. Very often professional genealogists are needed to testify as to the nature and extent of diligent searches that have been performed, sometimes in many different countries, to eliminate the possibility that unknown heirs exist. Kinship proceedings are complex and involve numerous rules of evidence and presumptions in law. For example, a person who would have been more than 100 years old when the decedent died is presumed to have predeceased the decedent.
There are also technical procedural requirements. When kinship cannot be proved to the Court’s satisfaction, the estate property is paid to the state comptroller. New York Surrogate’s Court Procedure Act (SCPA) Section 2222. However, pursuant to SCPA Section 2225, when three (3) years have passed after the decedent’s death, an application can be made to the Court to withdraw the estate funds from the state and have them paid to the known distributees by demonstrating that a diligent and exhausting search was made for all unknown heirs.
New York Probate Attorney Jules M. Haas has helped many clients over the past 30 years resolve issues relating to intestate estates, estate planning, kinship and estate settlement. If you or someone you know has any questions regarding these matters, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 for an initial consultation.