When thinking about how to establish kinship in New York, one is usually dealing with a situation where person dies in New York and they have not made a will (they are said to have died intestate). The heirs will need to be determined so that they can receive their rightful inheritances under New York intestate laws. Many times, an heir must prove that there are no other surviving heirs that have a superior right to inheritance of the decedent’s assets. When there is a question of whether a person is an heir, the family or heir must show proof or evidence of the relationship to the Court. The establishment of kinship may rely on a family tree, written testimony letters and oral testimony of friends, family and professionals such as genealogy experts.
The heir may request a kinship hearing with the New York Surrogate’s Court. It is generally recommended that the person hire a New York probate and estate attorney to represent the person at the kinship hearing because these matters are complex. The attorney can help the heir establish their kinship and prepare the necessary documents that must be submitted to the Court.
The person who has figured out how to establish kinship in New York has to state the nature of their relationship to the decedent. A testimony letter should including information regarding surviving heirs as well as predeceased heirs of the decedent. This may include providing information about maternal and paternal grandparents, parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles and dates of birth and dates of death. The testimony letter should be signed and acknowledged before a notary public.
It may be necessary for the family or heir to submit birth certificates, death certificates or marriage records, and other legal reports to verify an heir’s relationship to the decedent, especially when there are no surviving close members such as a surviving spouse, children, grandchildren, parents or siblings of the decedent. Kinship relatives such as aunts and uncles and cousins may have a more difficult time proving their relationship to the decedent especially if they are distant cousins.
Prior to the kinship hearing, the attorney can help the family or heir establish the heir’s relationship by hiring private investigative agencies and a genealogist to prepare a family tree. It may also be necessary to provide DNA test results. At the hearing, the attorney will represent the family or heir. The Court will review the documentation to determine if the heir has a right to inherit the decedent’s assets. The Court will listen to oral testimony of witnesses in making their determination as well. The administrator of the estate appointed by the court will then be ordered to distribute the estate assets after any creditor’s claims and/or estate taxes have been paid.
If you are involved in a kinship proceeding or need help with another New York probate matter, you should consult with a New York probate and estate attorney. The attorney can represent the estate, executor, administrator, beneficiaries, heirs and other interested parties regarding New York probate and intestate matters and tax matters.
If you wish to speak to a New York City estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.