When a Last Will is offered for probate, the Court needs to be provided with an array of additional information. One of the most important areas that the Court needs to know about is the identity of the decedent’s next of kin. These individuals are known as distributees. The Surrogate’s Court requires a complete list of distributees since these individuals must be provided with notice regarding the probate filing.
The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published many articles regarding the probate of a Will and the notification of next of kin. The reason these persons must be notified is due to the fact that if the Will is found to be invalid, the decedent’s distributees would inherit the estate. Without a valid Will, the estate would be distributed according to the laws of intestacy. When a decedent’s distributees feel that a Will is not valid, they have a right to Object to the Will. These Objections result in a Will Contest and estate litigation in the Surrogate’s Court.
Contesting a Will can be very complicated and deals with issues such as undue influence, lack of testamentary capacity, duress and lack of due execution. In view of the issues that can surround the probate of a Will, the identification of a decedent’s distributees is very important. A recent case decided by Manhattan Surrogate Nora Anderson on November 24, 2017 entitled Matter of Estate of Arthur shows the need to properly identify the decedent’s next of kin.
In Arthur, the estate’s temporary administrator requested permission from the Court to amend the probate petition to name two paternal cousins of the decedent as sole distributees. Another potential distributee objected to the amendment. The Court allowed the amendment so that these individuals would be given notice about the case. Thus, all issues regarding the decedent’s next of kin would be presented to the Court and the probate proceeding could be completed.
I have represented many individuals who have filed petitions with the Court to probate a Will or obtain intestate administration. Sometimes, the determination of a decedent’s next of kin can be very difficult. In such cases extensive research regarding family history of the decedent is needed which may include obtaining the services of a professional genealogist. The Court may require a Kinship Hearing.
If you have a question regarding kinship matters or the probate of Will or an intestate estate, call me now for a free consultation. 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.