Proving paternity in a NY kinship estate: Estate of DHL founder Larry Lee Hillbloom

As an experienced NY kinship lawyer practicing in Forest Hills, NY, I can tell you some of the most challenging cases in the world involve NY kinship estates.  A New York Kinship estate begins when someone passes away without a will and no known next of kin.  In a NY kinship estate, the first order of business is for the appointment of the Public Administrator, as fiduciary, to administer the estate.  Once the assets of the NY kinship estate are marshaled, the next step is for the next of kin, or claimants to come forward to prove their lineage through clear and convincing evidence of same.

NY kinship estates are also commonly referred to as Cousin’s Cases, as it is often but not always first cousins of the deceased coming forward as claimants.  According to NY kinship law embodied within the NY Estates Powers & Trusts Law (EPTL) 4-1.1 (a), intestacy succession is as follows; spouse, children (issue), parents, siblings, uncles and aunts, nieces and nephews, first cousins.  In instances and only in instances where there are no first cousins on either paternal or maternal sides of the family, first cousins once removed may be included for intestacy purposes.    The vast majority of NY kinship estates or cousin’s cases pertain to intestate estates of those who passed without a will however this is not always the case.

Estate of Hillbloom

Larry Lee Hillbloom, a California native was born in 1943.  A graduate of UC Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law Hillbloom went on to co-found the multi-billion-dollar courier company DHL.  Hillbloom, while based in California was something of an eccentric spending significant time in South East Asia.  Hillbloom was known for his affinity for underage Philipina prostitutes.  Hillbloom also shared a penchant for small vintage aircraft which he frequently piloted himself.  In 1995, while piloting a seaplane between Saipan and the Pagan Islands the aircraft crashed killing Hillbloom and his business partner.  Hillbloom’s body was never recovered.

Naturally, Hillbloom a lawyer, left behind an attorney drafted, supervised Last Will & Testament.  It was not long before various women from several Asian Pacific countries began objecting to Hillbloom’s will alleging that he had raped them while they were minors, fathering several children with them.  It was not long before the attorneys for Hillbloom’s alleged children demanded DNA testing to establish paternity.

Similar to California Law under the NY kinship law inheritance rights of a non-marital child are governed by EPTL §4-1.2.  At the time of decedent’s death, EPTL 4-1.2 (a) (2) (C) provides that a non-marital child may inherit from his father if paternity has been established by clear and convincing evidence, which may include, but is not limited to: (1) evidence derived from a genetic marker test, or (2) there is evidence that the father openly and notoriously acknowledged the child as his own.  In Hillbloom’s case, he was presumably unaware of his own children as they were byproducts of encounters with fourteen-year-old prostitutes who he statutorily raped.  While Hillbloom’s body was never recovered it was soon apparent that each of his homes had been scrubbed clean with muriatic acid to prevent the recovery of any of his DNA material for purposes of genetic marker testing.  Since there was none of Hillbloom’s DNA material to test, a California judge presiding over his kinship estate ordered his mother and brother to submit their material for genetic marker testing.  The results of the DNA testing matched paternity for four of the alleged children against Hillbloom’s family members thereby establishing paternity for inheritance purposes.  Each of the claimants, two from the Philippines, one from Vietnam and another from Palau, were children of teenage mothers who had been statutorily raped by Hillbloom.  In the end each of the claimants received $90 million dollars from Hillbloom’s multi-billion dollar kinship estate.

How did Hillbloom’s estate become a kinship estate?

Larry Lee Hillbloom was not only a very cunning, self-made billionaire but was also an attorney.  Hillbloom had his army of estate attorneys draft an airtight will protecting his sizable fortune.  However, according to NY estate law as stated in (EPTL 3-2.1), before a will can be admitted to probate it must be demonstrated that decedent was competent to make a will, i.e., that he or she understood the nature and extent of his or her property, the natural objects of his or her bounty, and the provisions of the instrument.  The natural objects of the bounty of Larry Lee Hillbloom’s estate turned out to be his four children, the product of torrid interludes with fourteen year old girls, the identities of whom were only learned postmortis.  As such, how could the decedent Larry Lee Hillbloom, have possibly known the objects of his bounty for testamentary capacity purposes at the time if his will’s execution?  The answer is Hillbloom could not have known the  natural objects of his bounty at the time of the purported instrument’s execution making his estate the largest kinship estate in history.

If you or someone you love is the heir to a NY kinship estate, you may have rights under the NY estate law.  Feel free to call an experienced NY kinship lawyer 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 heirs in the counties of Queens, New York, Kings, Bronx, Westchester, Rockland, Nassau, Richmond, Orange, Dutchess as well as in the State of New Jersey.


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