What happens when we die without wills? NY kinship estates

In the State of New York some of the most interesting NY estates include people who pass away without a will or any surviving relatives closer than cousins.  As a Queens kinship lawyer with two decades of experience handling these NY estate cases they never cease to intrigue me.  Pursuant to NY kinship law as defined within EPTL §4-1.1, when we pass away without a will or either spouse, children, parents or siblings, the estate becomes complicated.   As such the decedent’s estate is then distributed to surviving uncles and aunts or if none exist, nieces and nephews.  However, if the decedent died without any of the above categories of heir, the estate becomes a Cousins Case otherwise known as a NY kinship estate.  A NY kinship estate falls under the exclusive control of the Public Administrator’s Office, a quasi-governmental agency designed to administer these proceedings.

NY kinship estates begin when the public administrator is appointed as the fiduciary of the estate.  Then, as fiduciary of the NY kinship estate, the public administrator is charged with the marshaling of all assets and identifying any and all potential heirs, usually cousins.  While the marshaling of the assets is fairly straightforward, the latter is anything but.  Thus, it becomes incumbent upon all potential heirs of the kinship estate to retain an experienced Queens kinship lawyer to prove several key elements required to inherit under the NY estate law.  Each component requires extensive genealogical research coupled with consistent testimony from credible sources.  If however, the Court is not satisfied with the Queens kinship lawyer’s evidence, the entire estate is deposited with the NYS Department of Finance indefinitely.

Under the NY estate law, when there are no heirs closer in relation than first cousin once removed, then and only then, can a first cousin once removed step forward to inherit the NY kinship estate.  However, in most instances it is highly irregular to see this occur.  Most of us have an heir somewhere in the world in closer proximity to ourselves than the child of a first cousin, also known as a first cousin once removed.  As a Queens kinship lawyer I can tell you from experience, in extremely rare instances, there are neither first cousins nor first cousins once removed.  In which case the assets of the NY kinship estate are permanently deposited with the Department of Finance for the State of New York.

Estate of Walter Somaszko, Jr.

In 1968 a young Walter Somaszko, Jr. was living in Pasadena, California with his mother and father until which time his father blew up in an explosion.  Some believed the suspicious eventuality to be underworld related but the investigation was inconclusive.  Immediately Walter Somaszko Jr., and his mother did two things.  First they purchased the now collectible,1968 Lime Gold, Ford Mustang California Special, as depicted in the picture above.  Next the two fled their California home as quickly as possible, relocating to a modest house in Carson City, Nevada.

Walter Somaszko, Jr., resided in Carson City, Nevada until his passing in 2012.  As far as his neighbors could tell, Mr. Somaszko neither worked nor exhibited any outward signs of wealth with the exception of the Mustang which he rarely drove.  Walter Somaszko, Jr., having never been married or fathered children, passed away without a will or any known next of kin.  His estate quickly became a kinship estate.  Upon further inspection of Somaszko’s home, the public administrator stumbled upon various items of interest in his garage.  In the garage a treasure trove was unearthed including the collectible Mustang, and more than 9,000 extremely rare gold coins.  The vast collection included 2,900 Austrian gold coins from 1915, another 5,000 from Mexico and 800 more coins from the United States and Britain.

After the dust settled, the Public Administrator auctioned off more than $7 million dollars’ worth of extremely valuable bullion and one collectible 1968 Ford Mustang Special which brought in another $40,000.00.  The proceeds were eventually distributed to Somaszko’s first cousin and sole living heir, Arlene Magdanz, a substitute teacher from California.

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 Queens 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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