What is a cousin once removed and do cousins once removed inherit under the kinship law?

Unfortunately there is no definite answer other than maybe. The main question in almost any kinship case is who inherits what? As New York kinship attorneys we are responsible for isolating the heirs (next of kin) of a deceased person (decedent) who died with no immediate family. As New York kinship lawyers we are familiar with the family hierarchy of who inherits in such cases beginning with spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and finally cousins. For argument sake, supposing a decedent dies with no living relative other than two first cousins as is frequently the case, who inherits? In this instance the two first cousins would each inherit half of this estate.

However, who inherits if one of the cousins dies after (post-deceased) the decedent,and leaves behind children? These children of the post deceased cousin become cousins once removed pursuant to the New York kinship law EPTL 4-1.1(a)(6). The next question is are these cousins once removed entitled to inherit as distributees of the decedent’s estate under the kinship law? In this instance, because there is one surviving first cousin, this first cousin would be entitled to inherit the entire estate and the first cousins once removed would not be entitled to anything. However when cousins once removed are the only surviving heirs of a decedent they are entitled to the entire estate as the children of a post-deceased first cousin.

The landmark Queens kinship case of Shumavon clearly states that first cousins once removed (children of first cousins) can inherit in New York when there are no closer surviving relatives. The law reads that only the issue (children and grandchildren) of grandparents may be entitled to inherit rather than the issue of great-grandparents. As such, this reading of the statute excludes cousins once removed. However, the Court’s opinion in Shumavon also found that New York Kinship Law EPTL 4-1.1(a)(7) provides that first cousins once removed do inherit when there are no closer surviving relatives.

Therefore, if there are no closer surviving relatives such as first cousins, cousins once removed do inherit under the kinship law. If there are any surviving relatives closer in kinship to the decedent, the cousins once removed are out of luck.

As New York kinship attorneys there is very little we have not seen and these types of cases are no exception. If you have any questions regarding these types of kinship cases, feel free to reach an experienced New York kinship lawyer at the Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates at (718) 261-2444 or the contact form above. If you think you or someone you know may be entitled to the proceeds of an unclaimed kinship estate one of our attorneys would be happy to counsel you.

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