The settlement of an estate in New York invariably involves the kinship of a decedent. Whether the proceeding concerns the probate of a Last Will or an intestate administration, the Court requires full and specific information regarding the decedent’s next of kin (known as “distributees”).
In a probate case, the decedent’s distributees must be identified and given notice of the probate proceeding because these individuals have a right to contest the Will. Where a person dies intestate (without a Will) the statutes provide that the individuals who are entitled to serve as the estate Administrator and also inherit the estate are the decedent’s distributees.Problems arise in these situations when it is difficult to determine the identity of a decedent’s next of kin. Proof of kinship can be very difficult especially when a decedent did not have close relatives and was survived by distant relations such as first cousins. Also, a person’s family may need to be researched on both the paternal and maternal side. Family members and descendants may have been living in other states or even in other countries.
The New York Probate Lawyer Blog has published numerous articles regarding issues associated with proof of kinship. These cases require extensive evidence to show all of a person’s family tree. Professional genealogists can be hired to help find birth, death and marriage records. Other forms of evidence of family histories can be obtained from obituaries, the U.S. census records and even the manifest of ships that carried immigrants to the United States.
Another form of proof that may be used in kinship cases can be genetic marker evidence. This type of evidence is often utilized to prove paternity where a claimant is an out of wedlock child of the decedent. In a recent Manhattan estate entitled Matter of Estate of Taylor, decided on April 13, 2018, Manhattan Surrogate Rita Mella allowed a genetic marker test to be used to determine whether a person claiming to be the son of a decedent had a basis to proceed with his claim. In Taylor, the decedent had died in the World Trade Center 9/11 tragedy and the New York City Medical Examiner had maintained the decedent’s DNA profile. The Surrogate allowed the alleged son to use this profile to be tested against his own DNA to determine whether there was any matching.
The use of genetic marker tests, as well as other evidence that is used to determine kinship, is very important to ensure that the proper persons inherit from a decedent’s estate. The Courts are very careful when reviewing the kinship information and require that all evidence be as complete as possible.
I have represented many clients in kinship matters in both probate and administration cases. Call me now for a free review if you have a kinship or estate problem. 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.