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New York Intestate Succession Lawyer

When a person passes away without a valid will, during the estate administration their assets are distributed according to New York's intestate succession laws. These laws determine the order of priority for the distribution of the decedent's property among their surviving relatives. The process of distributing an intestate estate can be complex, and it's essential to work with an experienced New York intestate succession lawyer to navigate the process successfully. At Stephen Bilkis & Associates, we are well-versed in New York's intestate succession laws and can provide the guidance you need to protect your rights as a distributee and ensure that you receive the share of the estate to which you are entitled.

Intestate Succession Rules

The first step in the process is to determine who the decedent's "distributees" are - that is, the individuals who are entitled to receive a share of the estate. Under EPTL § 4-1.1, the distributees of an intestate estate in New York are determined based on their relationship to the decedent. The statute provides a hierarchy of distribution, starting with the surviving spouse and children, and proceeding to more distant relatives if there is no surviving spouse or children.

If the decedent is survived by a spouse but no children or parents, the spouse is entitled to the entire estate under EPTL § 4-1.1(a)(1). If the decedent is survived by a spouse and children, the spouse is entitled to the first $50,000 of the estate, plus one-half of the remaining balance, with the other half going to the children (EPTL § 4-1.1(a)(2)). If the decedent is survived by children but no spouse, the children are entitled to the entire estate in equal shares (EPTL § 4-1.1(a)(4)).

If the decedent is not survived by a spouse or children, the distribution of the estate becomes more complex. EPTL § 4-1.1(b) sets forth a hierarchy of distribution based on the relationship of the decedent to the potential distributees. The first in line are the parents of the decedent, followed by the siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins.

In some cases it is unclear who the heirs are. If that’s the case, then a kinship hearing may be required. Contact an experienced New York intestate succession lawyer to discuss the process of determining kinship. If there are no surviving relatives in any of these categories, the estate will escheat - that is, it will go to the state of New York.

It's important to note that the laws of intestate succession only apply to property that would have passed under a will. Such assets are referred to as probate property. This means that assets that are held in joint tenancy or have beneficiary designations, such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts, will pass outside of the probate process and be distributed to the surviving joint tenant or designated beneficiary.

Notable New York Case About Intestate Succession

Matter of Seaman, 78 N.Y.2d 451 (N.Y. 1991). The petitioner, the adopted-out child's daughter, seeks a share of the estate against objections from the decedent's first cousins. The court holds that the adopted-out child's right to inherit is restored under Domestic Relations Law § 117(1)(e), and this right extends to the adopted-out child's issue, rejecting the notion that the statute excludes the child's descendants. The court emphasizes the legislative intent to preserve inheritance rights in intrafamily adoptions, distinguishing the case from Matter of Best, and concludes that the petitioner is qualified to inherit as a distributee of the decedent. Under Domestic Relations Law § 117(1)(e). This provision specifies an exception to the termination of an adoptive child's rights to inheritance and succession. According to this exception, if the decedent is the adoptive child's natural grandparent or a descendant of such grandparent, and the adoptive parent is married to the child's natural parent, then the adoptive child's right to inherit from or through the natural family does not terminate.

This cases illustrates the importance of understanding New York's intestacy laws and the role they play in the distribution of an intestate estate. It also demonstrate the complexities that can arise in the probate process, particularly when there are disputes among the decedent's heirs. An experienced intestate succession attorney in New York can help you navigate these challenges and ensure that your rights as a distributee are protected.

Contact Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If you are a potential distributee of an intestate estate, contact an experienced intestate succession attorney serving New York at Stephen Bilkis & Associates to understand your rights and obligations under the law. We can help you navigate the probate process and ensure that you receive the share of the estate to which you are entitled. We can help you understand your rights as a distributee and guide you through the probate process to ensure that your interests are protected. Contact us at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Manhattan, Long Island, Nassau County, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Suffolk County, Bronx, and Westchester County.

Client Reviews
Mr. Bilkis handled both my father and mother's estate issues through very difficult times he was compassionate kind and understanding. In fact the whole firm showed great empathy. Despite the emotional hard time we were having that quickly and efficiently handle all the matters that were necessary to get us the result we desired. Can't recommend them enough. B.B.
From the very first phone call to Stephen Bilkis' office, the staff was extremely polite and helpful in assisting me. Mr. Bilkis was honest and upfront with me from the beginning in what he projected the outcome of my case would be; in the end we got better results than either of us anticipated. He was very genuine and compassionate in understanding my situation and how this legal matter could effect not only myself but my family as well. I highly recommend this law firm and will most definitely continue using them for any future legal needs. Jarrett
Stephen has handled numerous estate matters, criminal matters and family court matters effectively and with a goal-oriented approach. He gets great results and is a results-oriented attorney. Dustin