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Kinship proceedings are brought in order to figure out who can inherit from a decedent’s estate when the decedent didn’t have a will or dies “intestate.” These proceedings may involve distant relatives and disputes regarding who is entitled to an inheritance. If you have questions about kinship proceedings, experienced New York City estate litigation attorney Jules Haas can potentially help.Kinship Proceedings
When someone in New York dies without a will, the rules of intestacy will apply to the inheritance. Often the spouse and children inherit. However, if there is no spouse, child, parent, sibling or grandparent left, the descendants of the deceased person’s grandparents, which are often the decedent’s cousins, become entitled to inherit. Those claiming the right to inherit are alleged heirs. Sometimes multiple people claim the right to act as the estate administrator or claim the right to inherit. A kinship proceeding is held in New York Surrogate’s Court, and any interested heir will be a party to this proceeding.
Kinship issues may also arise in probate proceedings since next of kin must be given notice when a will is offered for probate.Kinship Hearing
The court needs to evaluate who is entitled to inherit from an estate, and so it holds a kinship hearing to determine the appropriate heirs. Those claiming they are entitled to inherit are alleged heirs. They need to show that they are actual heirs of the estate in order to receive a distribution.
Claimants will need to produce evidence that they had a blood relationship to the person who has passed. Evidence could include birth certificates, death certificates, DNA testing, marriage records, correspondence, or other documents that show there was a familial relationship. In some cases, there may be a disinterested witness or persons who would not stand to inherit but knew the decedent and the family well enough to support a claim. It may be necessary to retain a genealogist to research and investigate and testify at a kinship hearing, which is similar to a trial. Kinship hearings may be held before an attorney referee, rather than a judge. Typically, the kinship hearing is conducted according to the procedural and evidentiary rules of ordinary trials, but it is more informal.
The court may appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the interests of those who can inherit, but whose interests are unknown. These unknown or missing heirs may be entitled to inherit but aren’t aware of the proceeding or known to the court, and the guardian ad litem protects their interests. The Public Administrator and the Attorney General are other parties to kinship hearings.
Once the kinship hearing is over, a report or decision will be issued by the referee or judge. In most cases, the Surrogate Judge will need to confirm the report or reject it. Sometimes Surrogate Judges modify reports or ask for a new hearing. A report is also issued by the guardian ad litem. The report can be made orally in open court with the Surrogate Judge’s consent, but is usually made in writing.
The judge renders their final decision based on the two reports. If the claimants are found to be proper heirs, funds will be distributed to the claimants. However, where the claimants aren’t found to be proper heirs, they can object to the findings in the report or file an appeal. When no heirs are found, the deceased person’s property and assets may be transferred to the State of New York.Consult a Seasoned Estate Litigation Attorney in New York City
Sometimes many people come forward claiming to be relatives of the deceased, especially if there is a large estate. A decedent’s assets are protected by the court, which is empowered to make a decision about how the estate should be distributed. Kinship proceedings may become heated and complicated, especially if there are multiple claimants. It is advisable to choose a seasoned lawyer to represent your interests. Mr. Haas has more than three decades of experience representing people in New York City estate litigation, including kinship proceedings. He represents people in Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan, Kings, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties. Contact us at (212) 355-2575 or through our online form. Free consultations are welcome.