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New York Kinship Hearing

When someone passes away without leaving a valid will, an estate administrator will be appointed to manage the estate and distribute the estate's assets to the decedent's statutory heirs according to New York's rules of intestate succession. If such a decedent leaves a surviving spouse, children, parents, grandchildren or other close relatives, the process of identifying the heirs is usually straightforward. On the other hand, if there are only distant relatives, before the estate administrator will release the decedent’s property, those claiming to be your relatives will have to prove that they are indeed blood relatives. This is accomplished through a proceeding called a kinship hearing. The New York Surrogate’s Court has jurisdiction over kinship hearings. If you have questions about proving kinship, contact a seasoned New York kinship hearing lawyer at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates. With over 20 years of experienced representing clients in a variety of matters before the New York Surrogate’s Court, we have the knowledge and skill to help you prove your case.

Proving kinship

If you are seeking to receive a distribution from the estate of a deceased relative based on the New York’s intestate succession rules, you may have to do so at a kinship hearing in the New York Surrogate’s Court. At the kinship hearing you must produce evidence that you are a blood relative of the decedent. Under New York Estate, Powers and Trusts law section 4-1.1, blood relatives are defined as children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, parents, siblings, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and cousins. As a New York kinship hearing lawyer will explain, for purposes of establishing kinship adopted children are treated the same as biological children, while foster children and stepchildren are not considered biological children. Biological children who are adopted out are not entitled to an intestate share. If the decedent fathered a child outside of marriage and paternity is established under New York law, that child is entitled to an intestate share.

To prove kinship you must first establish the identity of the common blood relative and then construct a family tree. Birth, death, and marriage records are often used to establish kinship. Testimony from disinterested third parties such as neighbors will also be considered. As an experienced kinship hearing attorney in New York will explain, in addition to proving that you are related to the decedent you must also show conclusively that there are no other living relatives who have a claim to the estate equal to or greater than yours.


In the case of In re Estate of Marsden, 2009 NY Slip Op 33235 (N.Y. Surr. Ct., 2009), John Marsden died without leaving a will, without a spouse, and without children. The estate administrator identified 6 first cousins. A 7th purported relative, Lisa Wallace, objected to the proposed distribution of Marsden's estate to the 6 cousins, claiming to be the daughter of Marsden's nephew. This would give her claim higher priority to Marsden's estate over the claims of the 6 cousins. However, testimony showed that Wallace's father relinquished his paternal rights so that Wallace could be adopted by her stepfather. Thus, Wallace had no intestate right to Marsden's estate. After confirming that there were no other surviving relatives with prior claims to Marsden's estate, the New York Surrogate Court judge presiding over the kinship hearing confirmed that Marsden's 6 first cousins were entitled to equal shares of Marsden's estate.

In another case while several claimants were able to show that they were blood relatives of the deceased, they were not successful in showing that there were no living relatives with a greater claim to the decedent's estate. In the case of In the Matter of Judicial Settlement of the Accounts of Mosey, 2008 NY Slip Op 52599(U) (N.Y. Surr. Ct. 11/3/2008), 11 cousins were identified as possible heirs to Mosey's intestate estate. However, after the kinship hearing the judge concluded that the evidence was not sufficient to establish that there were no other relatives with an equal to or greater kinship claim to Mosey's estate. Because of this, no distribution of the estate could be immediately made to the 11 cousins.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates

If a distant relative passed away and you are required to prove consanguinity in order to receive a distribution from his (or her) estate, it is important that you are represented by an experienced kinship hearing attorney serving New York. Prevailing in a kinship hearing can be complicated, often requiring more than showing birth records. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates have over two decades of experience representing clients in complex matters before the New York Surrogate's Court. Contact us at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: Queens, Bronx, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Staten Island, 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