In New York state, if a decedent dies without a will (called intestate), the next of kin would inherit. In your case, her daughter is the next of kin (and any other children she has). Since her daughter is a minor, you can apply for voluntary letters as her natural guardian. The court may appoint a guardian ad litem. But if the estate is only personal property, they may waive it. If there is a wrongful death action, then it will be handled differently.
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The other argument here is that these personalty items are yours and that you paid for them. If you can prove that they are your assets. Otherwise the prior attorney's points are well taken and need to be considered.
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If you were not married to her you have no right to her property in probate. It all goes to her children equally. You might be considered half owner of the personal property if you helped to pay for it.
Joseph A. Bollhofer, Esq.
Joseph A. Bollhofer, P.C.
291 Lake Ave.
St. James, NY 11780
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If their is no will and the property is only tiltled in the name of the decedent the property passes through the laws of intesatacy. EPTL 4-1.1 spells out how the property is to be distributed.
Someone must petiton the Surrogate's Court to be appointed administrator of the estate. The law provides who has priority to do so. Once the administrator is appointed he gathers the asset, pays the debts of the estate and then distributes the assets. (This sound much simpler than it actually is.)
Remember only assets in the decendent's name alone pass through the Surrogate's Court. If their is a beneficiary designation, joint account designation or "in trust for" designation the general rule is that the assets pass to the designated beneficiary.