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LegalGems
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I have started with a NY attorney to make a will. My wife

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I have started with a NY attorney to make a will. My wife just passed away. There are no children, parents, grandparents, or siblings, so we are down to aunts, uncles, cousins as distributees.
Now, in NY, distributees include issue of grandparents and great grandparents: first and second cousins and first cousins once removed. My great grandfather was born in1810! I haven't even started to look on my maternal side where I have grandparents who were born in central Europe with shifting borders! This is a nightmare.
Before my wife died, we were planning to move to Pennsylvania; I still plan to do that. PA succession laws are simpler, I think. It appears that the potential contesting parties would only extend to uncles, aunts, and their issue. Websites for PA law in this area are hard for me to understand. I am considering abandoning the will project in NY and waiting until I move to PA (hopefully in the Spring of 2017) much as I like my attorney.
I know I am asking for an opinion here, and you won't want to provide me with one, but this business of locating first cousins once removed and the like from families where every first cousin is older than I has proven overwhelming.
Reed Hoyt

Hello! I will be reviewing your question and posting a response momentarily; if you have any follow up questions please respond here. Thanks!

I am sorry to hear of your wife's passing; it is good to ensure that one's estate plan is up to date.

In order to contest a will, a person needs to have legal standing. This means that they must have something to gain. So for example, if Father dies, and Father leaves his estate to his girlfriend, Father's children can contest that will, because if the will is deemed invalid, they would inherit via the laws of intestate succession, since they are next of kin. This would cut off claims from other descendants, such as nieces and nephews, great aunts, etc, since they would not have any basis for gaining from the will being declared invalid.

Therefore, it is not necessary to identify every living relative.

Sample estate planning documents for NY can be found here

You can see from the samples that it is not necessary to name all living relatives.

The main thing is to name the people (relatives or non relatives) one wishes to inherit; successor heirs can be named in case that person predeceases; if for some reason the will is declared invalid, then the executor will have the task of determining who the next of kin are under the laws of intestate succession. At that point they typically hire a private investigator to search the public records; but once the next of kin (closest bloodline) is found, there is no need to go further back.

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Information provided is for educational purposes only. Consultation with a personal attorney is always recommended so your particular facts may be considered. Thank you and take care.

Hello again; just checking in to see how things worked out;
if you have further questions please don't hesitate to reach out to me here on Just Answer.
Thanks!

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