In New York, "distributees" are persons who are designated by law as having the primary right to receive a decedent's estate in the case of intestacy - i.e. where a person dies without a Will. New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law ("EPTL") Section 1-2.5 defines a distributee as "a person entitled to take or share in the property of a decedent under the statutes governing descent and distribution".
When a person dies without a Will, his or her distributees (next of kin) inherit as the statutes provide. Generally, the order of priority is the spouse and children, parents and brothers and sisters. EPTL Section 4-1.1 sets forth the order of priority for persons to receive their distributive share.
The identity of distributees is also important in other types of proceedings such as probate. New York laws and procedures require that a decedent's distributees be provided with notice of a probate proceeding and given the opportunity to contest the decedent's Will. In the probate proceeding, the probate petition must contain the names and address of all of the decedent's distributees. The petition also contains an estimate of the value of the decedent's personal property and real property interests. At the outset of the probate case, the distributees may be given the opportunity to sign a paper by which they consent to the probate of the purported Last Will. If a distributee does not consent, he will be served with a Citation which is issued by the Surrogate's Court and is like a Summons. The Citation contains a Court date on which the served party must appear in Court and let the Court know if they want to move forward towards objecting to the Will. Objections to a Will need to prepared and filed according to various rules and procedures. For example, a Queens Probate Attorney, can help an objectant prepare and file estate litigation papers in the Queens Surrogate's Court. The testimony of the attesting witnesses and the person who drafted the Will can be obtained even before filing Objections pursuant to Surrogate's Court Procedure Act Section 1404.
The rules of kinship and the determination of distributees, along with the protection of distributees' interests, can be complex. When a person fails to prepare a Will, the laws of intestacy control estate distribution. It may be necessary for family members to present evidence at a hearing on kinship to prove their right of inheritance.
I have many years of experience advising clients concerning estate distributees and working with estate distributees to protect and advance their interests. Many families have engaged me to help them administer estates for their deceased relatives and to contest a Will that has been filed for probate.
I have been practicing law for over 30 years. I graduated in the top 10% of my class at The New England School of Law in Boston and served on the Law Review. I'm committed to the success of my clients and the resolution of all estate issues that may effect them.
I am available to answer your questions or address any concerns you may have 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact me now at (212) 355-2575 or e-mail