What Is a Kinship Proceeding?

Understanding your role as kin and your rights to inherit.

To understand what a kinship proceeding is, let’s first start by explaining “kinship.” Immediate family includes parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. However, there are often other blood relatives who also have kinship relationships. They are distant relatives, such as first or second cousins and great aunts or great uncles.

In most cases, when an individual dies, immediate family are the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate. However, sometimes no immediate family members are surviving. When the closest living relative is a cousin or distant relative, the inheritance may require a kinship proceeding.

A Kinship Proceeding

A kinship proceeding results in a kinship hearing. The hearing is less informal but similar to a trial. However, the person claiming to be kin must prove their kinship to the court. In other words, they bear the burden of proof. The hearing provides an opportunity to present evidence.

There are various ways to do this, but many people use a professional genealogist. The genealogist investigates and gathers research. They often find birth certificates, death certificates, DNA and devise a family tree. They also testify in court as expert witnesses and present the evidence.

In addition, what other situations typically require kinship proceedings?

  • Dying intestate (dying without a will) or with a will the court rules invalid. The court may order a kinship hearing to see who qualifies for inheritance based on New York’s intestacy laws.
  • A will exists, but does not name the beneficiaries. An example is that some wills state property should pass to “cousins,” but fail to name who the cousins are. To determine the cousins who are the rightful heirs, the court may hold a kinship hearing.
  • A public administrator assigned to the estate is acting as the estate’s fiduciary. The claims and debts have been paid, but determining the rightful heirs remains inconclusive and the public administrator requests a kinship hearing.
  • The court has assigned a Guardian ad Litem to locate and represent potential heirs. The Guardian ad Litem must investigate and search for them. In addition, proof must be presented that they are in fact the heirs.

Do you think you should have the right to inherit from a deceased relative?

Contact the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston for a free confidential review of your estate matter. We offer reasonable and flexible fee arrangements and personal representation.

Bonnie Lawston, P.C.



Office Address:1841 New York Avenue, Huntington Station, New York 11746 (No Mail to this Location)

Mailing Address: P.O. BOX 317, RIDGE, NEW YORK, 11961 (Send All mail and correspondence)

Office  (631) 425-7299               Fax  1-866-431-0101