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Court Looks at the Intent of the Decedent


Establishing the jurisdiction that will handle a probate action in a New York Probate Court sometimes requires the knowledge of the decedent’s entire residential history. Just because a person dies in one county does not mean that the probate should be handled by that county. Probate in New York Law is handled by the jurisdiction that the decedent lived in for the ending years of their life. A New York Probate Lawyer said that address must be a voluntary residence and not necessarily a nursing home or hospice where the person resided toward the end of their lives. In New York law, it is referred to as a domicile. A domicile is existing until a new one is set up. A person moves from one domicile to another throughout their lives. The primary element in establishing a domicile is intent. Sometimes, the evaluation of residential change and intent to move can be blurry.

In one case, a woman who was born in Odessa, Russia in 1898, moved to Brooklyn, New York sometime around 1911. She was married and lived as an American citizen for the remainder of her life. She and her husband purchased a home on Beaumont Street in Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn, New York shortly after their marriage. They lived in that house and raised their family to adulthood in that house. In 1989, she began to have medical problems. During that year and the one that followed, she spent most of her time in hospitals or nursing homes. On December 6, 1990, she was a resident patient at Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. She died on that date. For three months before she died she had lived in a nursing home in Bronx County.

Her family had sold her home in Manhattan Beach during her long illness. The court was required to determine if she was considered a resident of Bronx County or a resident of Brooklyn. An additional complication was that she died in Manhattan. The court must evaluate which county was the woman’s domicile at the time of her death. They determined that it would not be appropriate to determine that she was a resident of Manhattan since her stay there was too short. A Westchester County Probate Lawyer said the question remains as to whether she has a domicile in the Bronx, or Brooklyn. The argument that is most important in this particular case involves that of intent. Did the woman have the intent to sell her lifelong domicile in Brooklyn and establish a new domicile in the Bronx prior to her death? The court must try to determine what the woman’s intent was at the time that her home was sold.

Evidence that was presented to the court, failed to advise the court if the woman even knew that her long time home had been sold while she was ill. The court must take that information to mean that she did not. Since she was unaware of the fact that her family had liquidated her home, she could not have had the intent to change her domicile from her life long home, to the nursing home in the Bronx. A Suffolk County Probate Lawyer said the court determined that even though the woman did not have a house in Brooklyn to return to at the time of her death, there is no doubt that she considered herself a resident of Brooklyn. She did not voluntarily change her domicile at any time. Even though she was living in the nursing home in the Bronx for the three months prior to her death, she had not voluntarily divested herself of her home in Brooklyn. In this particular case, the court determined that the woman had to be considered a resident of Brooklyn and her domicile would have to be determined as Brooklyn. The case was sent to Brooklyn Probate Court.

At Stephen Bilkis & Associates with its probate Lawyers, have convenient offices throughout New York and Metropolitan area. Our estate lawyers can provide you with advice to guide you through difficult situations, whether you need a will, or are involved in estate litigation. Without a probate attorney, you could lose precious compensation to help your family.

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