By Jason Stern
As a NY kinship estate lawyer with more than two decades of experience litigating these highly specialized cases I can honestly say no other area of the NY estate law is as fascinating to me. A NY kinship estate begins when a NY resident passes away both without a valid NY will and without any close living relatives. So what do we mean when we say close living relatives in the NY kinship estate sense? Well §4-1.1 of the NY estate law governs the distributions in NY estates where there exist no next of kin closer in relation to the decedent than 1stcousins, aunts, uncles and sometimes 1stcousins once removed. However this statute may be expanded at times to include NY estates which include nieces, nephews, and even children of the decedent if there is a question of fact as to their relationship to the decedent.
More often than not NY kinship estate cases involve 1stcousins. Even if it was not known to the decedent themselves, most people die with a living heir to some degree. Once it is determined that the NY decedent passed away without a NY will and without any close surviving heirs, the Public Administrator in the respective county where the decedent resided is appointed Administrator within the NY kinship estate. Thereafter, the Public Administrator will marshal all of the assets of the decedent’s NY estate, depositing said assets into a NY estate account where all reasonable debts of the estate are paid. Next the Public Administrator of the NY kinship estate will then prepare and settle their judicial accounting on the Surrogate’s Court where all the debits, credits and net cash on hand of the NY kinship estate are itemized.
Once the Public Administrator has judicially settled their formal accounting, any potential heirs are notified and must retain a NY kinship estate lawyer like myself, to file formal objections on their behalf within a specified window of time. Otherwise if said potential heirs fail to timely file formal objections to the Public Administrator’s account the entire NY estate is deposited with the NYC Department of Finance as unclaimed funds. At the point formal objections are filed by the NY kinship estate lawyer, the NY kinship proceeding formally begins. The NY kinship estate lawyer will have 12 months to prove their case otherwise the proceeds of said NY kinship estate will once again be deposited with the NYC Department of Finance.
How your NY kinship estate lawyer will prove kinship?
As a NY estate lawyer with a perfect track record in these often complex and difficult cases, I can tell you no two kinship cases are alike. In each NY kinship estate the burden is on the alleged cousins to close the class of heirs. For kinship to be established to the satisfaction of the Court, claimants must make an evidentiary showing (1) how each is related to decedent, and (2) that no other persons of the same or a nearer degree of relationship survived decedent. Upon proof that no heirs other than those before the Court exist, the class of heirs may be “closed”.
In all cases involving pedigree and the distribution of intestate property, it is first necessary to establish the identity of the common ancestor and from that point to construct the true family tree, to which all claimants must attach themselves to be successful. When persons of the nearest degree of relationship establish their standing, those more remote are excluded. Therefore, as a NY kinship estate lawyer who seeks to establish an interest in a decedent’s NY kinship estate on behalf of a relative I must show that all lines of descent which would precede his or her claim as a distributee are exhausted. In other words to inherit from a NY kinship estate as a cousin, you must first prove that the decedent was not survived by nieces, nephews, or children of the decedent. Once your NY kinship estate lawyer has done so and identified all heirs similar in lineage you have now closed the class.
Estate of Kuberka
Richard Kuberka died on October 18, 2006, within NY State. Richard Kuberka died without a will and was survived only by eleven first cousins. As is usually the case it was Richard’s neighbors who contacted the Public Administrator’s Offices of his passing, supplying what little information about his next of kin they could. Thereafter, determining it to be a NY kinship estate, the Public Administrator was appointed and eventually filed their judicial accounting in the within matter. The cousins of the decedent all filed timely objections to the account and a kinship trial was subsequently conducted. In the NY kinship estate of Kuberka the court found the proof provided in the NY kinship estate was insufficient to establish that there are no other heirs who are closer or equal degree of kinship to Richard Kuberka. In other words the Court ruled the cousins failed to close the class to meet their burden of proving that aunts, uncles and cousins had all ben identified. As a result of the cousins’ insufficient evidence at trial the Court ordered rather than distribute the estate to the decedent’s cousins, that the proceeds of the NY kinship estate be deposited with the NYS Comptroller’s office for the benefit of the decedent’s unknown heirs. As such the NY kinship estate lawyers for the cousins were unsuccessful in their application to receive the proceeds of Richard Kuberka’s NY estate because they failed to submit sufficient proof in order to close the class of heirs.
NY kinship estate cases are not easy. They require experience, time, hard work and the dedication to solve the legal enigmas NY kinship estate cases pose. Surrogate’s Courts in the State of New York are not in the business of just handing over large sums of NY estate assets to anyone claiming to be a relative. The burden of proof in NY kinship estates is painstakingly high. That being said, when a sufficient combination of oral testimony, from both interested and disinterested witnesses, and numerous corroborating documents of varying types has been adduced, NY courts find that claimants do establish their kinship with a decedent and allow estate distributions to be made to them. However, before such a finding the Court must determine that the NY estate lawyer has sufficiently met their burden by closing the class in the within NY estate.
If you or someone you love is the descendent of a relative who passed without a NY will, you may have rights under the NY estate law. Feel free to call an experienced NY estate lawyer at The Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates, at (718) 261-2444 for a free consultation. Our NY kinship lawyers have nearly 60 years of combined NY estate law experience handling these often treacherous NY kinship cases in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Richmond, Orange and Dutchess.