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Inheritance Rights of Nieces and Nephews

Inheritance rights of nieces and nephews endow you with certain rights to your brother’s or sister’s inheritance. However, your rights are lower priority than those of your aunt or uncle’s more immediate family members. As set forth in the laws of the state of New York, you have no rights to your aunt or uncle’s inheritance if they had a living spouse, descendants or parents at the time of their death. Even if you are the closest living relative, you may also have very limited rights if your aunt or uncle left you out of their will.

Do I have the right to inherit if my aunt or uncle did not have a will? If your aunt or uncle did not have a will, then you will inherit only if you are “the closest living relative” – only if your aunt or uncle died with no living spouse, descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc.) and parents.

Do I have the right to be notified if my aunt or uncle died? If your aunt or uncle had a will, then you will have the right to be notified of the will and the hearing date when the will is presented before the court.

What rights do I have if I am not named in my aunt or uncle’s will? If you were not named in your aunt or uncle’s will, then you have the right to contest the will. You can win a will contest if you can prove that your aunt or uncle either did not have the mental capacity to make a will, was unduly influenced into making the will or the will was not made correctly.

Do step-nieces and step-nephews have the right to inherit? Step-nieces and step-nephewes do not have the right to inherit. Only if they were adopted by the aunt and uncle’s aunt or uncle, in which case they would be considered nieces and nephews.

Do all nieces and nephews have the right to inherit equally? All nieces and nephews from the same aunt or uncle have the right inherit equally unless stated otherwise in the will of the aunt or uncle who died, but you can only share the inheritance share of your deceased parent, so you may inherit unequally with your cousins.

Do I have the right to be in charge of my aunt or uncle’s estate? If you are the closest living relative (your aunt or uncle does not have a living spouse, descendants or parents) or you are named as the executor in your aunt or uncle’s will, then you can have the right to be named the executor or administrator of their estate.

Do I have the right to inherit from my aunt or uncle if they were not married and the children are not theirs? Children are presumed to be biological children if they were born during the marriage or have your aunt or uncle’s name on their birth certificate. Adopted children of your aunt or uncle are considered their children. Step-children or foster children are not considered their children.

Do I have the right to inherit from my aunt or uncle if their marriage was invalid? A legal marriage is assumed to be valid unless you can prove otherwise, even your aunt or uncle was separate from their spouse or was in the process of divorce. But if you can prove to the court that your aunt or uncle’s spouse abandoned them, then you will have the right to set aside the spouse’s share and will be able to inherit from your aunt or uncle. To be valid for inheritance purposes, the marriage has to be a legal marriage. Common-law marriage is not valid in New York, but may be valid in a different state.

What should I do if I need an estate and probate lawyer for my aunt or uncle’s estate? You can contact the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin, an attorney familiar with inheritance rights of nieces and nephews, at (212) 233-1233 or (718) 509-9774.