I dont know NY law. In general, all persons who have legal standing to make a claim need to be brought in to the case. In Ca they can join voluntarily with the same atty representing other claimants, or they can hire their own atty and file separate suit, or they are named as a deft. This way the deft can be asssured that all possible claimants are before the court. Each claimant in Ca has a unique claim based upon several factors. If the deceased was financially assisting a claimant, that claimant has lost financial support. Then you oook at the nature of the relationship each claimant had with the deceased. The closer the relationship, the larger the loss. If your ex had little or no contact with your daughter for a long time, he will have trouble proving a close relationship. If he owes back support and it isnt too late to collect, you might want to talk to a family lawyer about trying to enforce collection against any money he might get from the case. Perhaps a lien or attachment can be obtained. You should consult with an atty who can assist on the wrongful death case too.
If your ex-husband is the father of your daughter and she died without a will, he would likely be entitled to a share of the estate. Estates Powers and Trusts Law (EPTL) 4-1.1 provides how an estate is distributed when a person dies without a will. There have been similar cases, and I am aware of a few that got significant press after 9/11 that involved workers compensation death benefits and the Victims Compensation Fund. You should consult with an Estates lawyer who can better explain these issues to you.
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Mr. Gennarelli is correct. Presumably the decedent had no will so distribution of the estate assets would be governed by the laws of intestacy which would include the biological father. Your attorney should explain this to you.
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Your ex husband is not necessarily entitled to half. You need to discuss this with your own lawyer. You can get more detailed information from my Avvo guide to wrongful death in New York.
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The claim for wrongful death belongs to those who were dependent on the decedent for financial support. The claim for conscious pain and suffering passes through your daughter's estate. If she had no Will, you and your ex husband as her parents would share equally as her sole heirs.
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Most states differ on claims involving wrongful death and distribution. In Indiana, both parents have a claim for the wrongful death of a child. While there is no cap on damages, the love and affection of the child is the greatest compenent of the claim and is payable until the death of the last surviving parent. Both parents are required to make the claim. Typically, the parents could be co-plaintiff's, but sometimes a non-custodial parent is a defendant in the action. The defendant parent typically is included to assess the validity of the claim, which includes such things as outstanding child support, relationship with the child, etc. An option may include a separate cause of action against the non-custodial parent to determine their interests if any in the wrongful death proceeds. Most Judges do not like to determine "which parent is a better parent." However, this may be an option to get a credit for outstanding child support, unpaid medical bills, etc. before any of the settlement proceeds are distributed. Definitely, talk to your lawyer to determine options in your jurisdiction.