By Jason Stern
As an experienced NY kinship lawyer practicing in Forest Hill, NY, I can tell you that one of the messiest ways to die is to die without a will and no immediate family members. In NY these types of cases are called NY kinship estates and governed by the controlling statutes cited in §4-1.1 of the Estates, Powers & Trust Laws (EPTL) as cited in Matter of Pitcher. Pursuant to the Estate Law when we pass without a will, priority of inheritance is given based upon proximity of the heirs’ relationship to the deceased. Thus according to EPTL §4-1.1 priority is given to the spouse and children first. However, if the deceased has no spouse or children at the time of their death then their NY kinship estate passes to parents of the deceased followed by, siblings, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles and finally first cousins. In fact, these NY kinship estates are often called cousins cases because these NY estates usually involve first cousins. As a NY kinship lawyer we are charged with recreating not one but two family trees of the decedent as we all have a paternal tree from our father’s side and a maternal tree from our mother’s side. All members on each tree must be accounted for by the NY kinship lawyer before anyone may inherit.
Throughout the litigation of these Queens kinship estates, we often have two separate estates, family trees and groups of heirs whom we represent. Each of our Queens kinship clients must then be identified and proven to the Court to be the decedent’s sole surviving heirs throughout a series of NY kinship hearings. Before the Courts recognize any individual heir’s right to the deceased’s NY kinship estate, the Courts must be satisfied that their NY kinship lawyers established that no other heirs with equal or greater priority to inherit exist.
Carl John Smith died in 2010 without a will or any known surviving relatives. However just prior to his $822,000.00 estate being deposited to the State, Smith’s distant cousin, Laura Broderick came forward to claim her cousin’s inheritance. Broderick’s kinship lawyers produced birth and death certificates clearly establishing herself as Smith’s cousin, the decedent. However before inheriting any portion of her cousin’s kinship estate, Broderick’s kinship lawyers must now prove that the decedent, Smith, had no living heirs closer in relationship to Broderick at the time of his death such as nieces or nephews, and that Smith was not survived by any other first cousins.
Another example of a kinship estate going haywire is the Estate of Prince, or The artist formerly known as Prince as he liked to be called. Prince passed away in his Minnesota home in April of 2016 with an estimated estate of Three Hundred Million ($300,000,000.00) Dollars. Prince also passed away without a will, spouse or known children. In other words, Prince’s estate is a kinship case. Initially, several individuals, 45 to be exact, came forward claiming to be Prince’s illegitimate children resulting from Prince’s various one night stands with their mothers and claimants stating to be Prince’s long lost siblings. However, none of these claimants were able to either establish paternity or kinship. Thus, Prince’s remaining One Hundred Million ($100,000,00.00) Dollar portion of his kinship estate, after administration fee’s and estate taxes, is to be distributed to his sister, Tyka Nelson and their five remaining half-siblings.
If you or someone you love is the non-marital child of a decedent or a first cousin, you may have rights under the NY estate law. Feel free to call an experienced NY kinship lawyer at The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates, at (718) 261-2444 for a free consultation. Our Queens kinship lawyers have over 50 years of combined NY estate law experience handling these often treacherous NY kinship cases for non-marital children in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Richmond, Orange, Dutchess as well as in the State of New Jersey.