As an experienced NY estate lawyer practicing in Forest Hills, Queens, I have seen and successfully handled all types of NY estates. From the seemingly straightforward NY probate where a decedent’s estate is prepared ahead of time with an attorney drafted will, to the complex and often messy NY will contests which tend to drag on for several years. However, no NY estate cases are as interesting, complicated or as rewarding as NY kinship cases.
A NY kinship case occurs when someone passes away without a will or any obvious, identifiable next of kin. Usually, the closest heir in a NY kinship case will involve first cousins but this is not always the case. As such, these types of NY kinship estates are also referred to as cousins cases because they involve the recovery of NY estate assets on behalf of first cousins.
Recently, the body of a 96-year-old was found in his Hell’s Kitchen apartment. The 96-year-old turned out to be, world famous philharmonic violinist Eugene Bergen. The 96-year-old Bergen never married nor had any children. Eugene Bergen died intestate, meaning he had no will. However, the 96-year-old violinist did manage to leave behind an estate valued at more than $4 million dollars. So what happens to Bergen’s unclaimed estate?
The Bergen Estate becomes a NY kinship estate. Most of the time, when someone passes they either have a will or they have easily identifiable relatives such as a spouse, child or sibling. On rare occasions someone will pass with neither a will or discernable heirs creating a sizable legal problem.
More often than not, a person who passes with neither a will nor discernable next of kin, such as Eugene Bergen, will have been a hermit for a large extent of their lives. These decedents go through life incapable of maintaining meaningful relationships with others. Ordinarily, productive members of society will leave their homes in the morning, coming in contact with a multitude of people on a daily basis from their doorman to their waiter or dry cleaner. This is not true for decedents of NY kinship cases. These people tend to be introverts, hoarders, people who normally avoid any and all contact with society. Ordinarily these solitary individuals tend not to be big spenders during their lives, amassing sizable estates.
Often, the bodies of decedents in NY kinship cases are discovered by first responders who are tipped off by neighbors reporting foul smells emanating from their apartments. The problem with living in obscurity is that nobody notices you when you’re gone. Once in the apartment, either Fire or Police Department personnel will notify the medical examiner. The remains are then brought to the county morgue and the contents of the apartment inventoried and examined for information relating to next of kin. If nobody claims the remains, the medical examiner’s office files a notice of death with the Public Administrator’s office. Once notified the quasi-governmental office of the Public Administrator begins marshalling the decedent’s assets and administering their estate. The proceeds of the unclaimed NY kinship case are then made known to potential heirs who have an opportunity to hire a NY kinship lawyer in an effort to claim their portion of the NY kinship estate. If successful, the distant heirs are entitled to their portion of the estate. However, if unsuccessful the proceeds of the NY kinship estate are paid into the NYS Department of Finance until an heir can come forward to successfully claim the NY kinship estate.
As a NY kinship lawyer I suspect the Public Administrator of New York County will be wrapping up the marshalling of assets for the $4 Million Dollar Estate of Eugene Bergen and preparing to file their formal accounting. Once filed any and all alleged next of kin for Eugene Bergen will be filing objections to the Public Administrator’s accounting and beginning the lengthy process of proving their kinship to Eugene Bergen. Once kinship is proven, these distributees will each inherit their share of Eugene Bergen’s $4-million-dollar estate. If you think about it, Eugene Bergen may have never even met the strangers who now stand to inherit his entire multimillion dollar estate.
As a New York Kinship Lawyer, I cannot stress the value of having an attorney drafted will enough. The best way to handle a kinship case is to avoid one by having a will. However, if you or a loved one are the distributee of someone who died without a will and need legal counseling from an experienced New York Kinship Lawyer, please call one of our Estate Lawyers at the Law Offices of Jason W. Stern & Associates at (718) 261-2444 for a free consultation.
Our Queens estate lawyers have nearly 45 years of combined NY estate law experience handling these often treacherous NY kinship cases for families like yours in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Richmond, Orange, Dutchess as well as in the State of New Jersey.