A last will and testament allows a testator to specific who will receive their property upon death. It is an effective way to ensure you’re your property goes to who you want to receive it. However, many people do not leave wills, dying intestate. As result, New York’s law of intestate succession applies and dictates who gets the property in the decedent’s estate. The surviving spouse and children, if any, would be entitled to inherit. In the absence of either, the decedent’s parents would be next in line to inherit, followed by siblings.
In Gonzalez, the 27-year-old decedent died in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. She was survived by her father, sister, and brother. The brother and sister applied for letters of administration. Separately, the father did as well. The brother and sister petitioned the court for summary judgment granting their petition for the issuance of letters of administration. Their request for summary judgment also requested that the court dismissed the decedent’s father’s petition despite the fact that the father was the decedent’s presumptive distributee.
The petitioners argued that the father is disqualified from inheriting because he failed to or refused to provide for her or that he abandoned her. As a result, under EPTL 4-1.1 her estate should be distributed as if the father had predeceased the decedent. That would mean that the petitioners would be her distributees.