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Kinship hearings in the New York Surrogate’s Court are conducted to ascertain who are a deceased person’s closest living relatives at the time of his or her death. A kinship hearing may be necessary in cases where the decedent died without a Will and there is some dispute or uncertainty regarding the Decedent’s rightful heirs.

During the kinship hearing, a party claiming to be the decedent’s heir will be required to present evidence, including properly authenticated documents and testimony, to establish their relationship to the decedent and that nobody more closely related to the decedent survived the decedent. Following the hearing and deliberation on the evidence presented, the Court will issue a decision and order outlining its findings and rulings regarding the Decedent’s kinship.

For example, if a person dies without a Will and is survived by someone claiming to be his child, and that claim is disputed, a kinship hearing may be necessary to determine if this person is in fact the Decedent’s child. If the alleged child establishes that the Decedent was his father and that the Decedent did not have any other children or a surviving spouse, then the child will be determined to be the Decedent’s sole heir.

There are several possible scenarios where the need for a kinship hearing may arise. These hearings are generally quite complicated and require substantial preparation. The parties involved would be wise to seek legal representation from an experienced estate attorney who can provide guidance, advocacy, and support throughout the process.