In New York, if someone passes away without a surviving close family member to inherit the estate, it becomes what is known as a kinship case. While most of us take the time to plan our estate by creating a last living will and testament or a trust to leave our assets to family members and close friends, not everyone is blessed to leave behind a loving family or close associates to pass on an estate.
Chapter 17(B) of the N.Y.S. Consolidated Laws codifies who is entitled to receive the deceased’s estate if he or she passes away without leaving a will. Typically, the surviving spouse is entitled to all of the deceased’s estate if the couple leaves behind no surviving children or grandchildren. If there are children, the surviving spouse receives the first $50,000 of the estate and then half or the remainder which will be split with the surviving children.
When children lose both their parents, the estate will be divided equally between the surviving children. But what if the deceased leave no wife or children? How far will courts and interested parties need to go to figure out who gets what? The answer depends on a variety of factors, including who the deceased leaves behind and whether any interested parties have passed away.
If the deceased leaves behind no immediate family, the succession for estate claims is as follows: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and cousins. While kinship estate claims generally extinguish at first cousins, there are some unique situations where a first cousin, once removed may claim the estate.
It is important to note that first cousins whose parents pass away before the deceased will likely not have claims to the estate if there are other surviving aunts and uncles to the deceased. Generally speaking, kinship claims to an estate are extinguished when someone’s passing precedes the deceased’s. When an aunt or uncle’s passing is after the deceased, the surviving coursings (sons and daughters of the aunt and uncle) would split their parent’s share equally amongst them.
Kinship claims are important in New York because if no one comes forward to claim an estate, the state takes indefinite ownership of all the assets and may eventually sell off these assets. Proving kinship can be more difficult that it appears on the surface and if the cases are not handled properly, otherwise viable assets may go to an undeserving relative or even the state.