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Adoption

When a person dies without a will, the law determines who the heirs of the estate are. Stock photo

By Linda M. Toga, Esq.

Linda Toga

THE FACTS: After my mother’s death I was approached by a man I will refer to as Joe who claims that my mother was his biological mother as well. According to Joe, before she and my father married, my mother gave birth to Joe and immediately put him up for adoption. Although Joe admits that my mother rejected his attempts to develop a relationship with her during her lifetime, Joe now claims that since my mother died without a will, he is entitled to a share of my mother’s estate.

THE QUESTION: Is Joe correct? Will my siblings and I have to share our inheritance with him?

THE ANSWER: Fortunately for you, Joe is wrong.

HOW IT WORKS: Generally a child who is adopted out does not have the right to an inheritance from the estate of his birth mother. The order of adoption generally relieves the birth parents of all parental duties and of all responsibilities for the adopted child. At the same time, the order extinguishes all parental rights of the birth parent to the estate of a child who has been adopted, including the right to serve as administrator of that child’s estate and the right to inherit under the intestacy statutes.

Although Joe seems to be relying upon the fact that your mother died without a will and, therefore, did not explicitly disinherit him, his reliance is unwarranted. That is because the New York State intestacy statute and the domestic relations law govern how your mother’s estate should be distributed.

While the child of a decedent is generally entitled to a share of his parent’s estate if the parent dies without a will [Estates, Powers and Trusts Law §4-1.1 (a)(1) and (3)], the rights of an adopted child in the estate of a birth parent are governed by subsection (d) of the statute. It provides that the Domestic Relations Law, specifically Domestic Relations Law §117, controls.

Domestic Relations Law §117 (1)(a) and (b) provide that an order of adoption relieves the birth parent of all parental duties and responsibilities and extinguishes any rights the parent would otherwise have over the adoptive child’s property or estate. At the same time, the order terminates any rights of the adoptive child to an inheritance from the birth parent.

Although there are some exceptions to these laws, the logic behind terminating inheritance rights is to prevent people in Joe’s position from enjoying a windfall by inheriting from both his birth and adoptive parents and to prevent a birth mother from receiving an inheritance from a child that she did not support during her lifetime.

Under the circumstances, the only way Joe could inherit from your mother’s estate would be if she chose to name him as a beneficiary in a will or a trust or on a beneficiary designation form. If Joe decides to pursue a claim against your mother’s estate, you should be able to defeat the claim by providing the court with evidence that Joe was legally adopted as a child.

It would be wise to retain an attorney experienced in estate administration to assist you with this matter.

Linda M. Toga provides personalized service and peace of mind to her clients in the areas of elder law, estate administration and estate planning, real estate, marital agreements and litigation. Visit her website at www.lmtogalaw.com or call 631-444-5605 to schedule a free consultation.

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About 100 small dogs were rescued by Save-A-Pet in Port Jeff Station from an upstate home over the weekend and now up for adoption. Photo by Alex Petroski

More than 100 four-legged, furry friends are looking for a new home.

Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center in Port Jefferson Station assisted in a rescue at a home in upstate New York Dec. 16 and 17, and as a result, the facility all at once has taken in more than 100 dogs, which are now up for adoption. The center was founded by Dori Scofield in 1994, who said this was by far the largest one-time influx of dogs it has ever had to deal with. She said about once a year Save-A-Pet is asked to assist in large-scale rescues, but this occurrence is “totally out of the ordinary.”

“Luckily we didn’t have that many [animals currently] but I had already set up three transports, so now I can’t say no to the ones I already committed to, so I have 16 more dogs coming, and they’re big,” Scofield said.

About 100 small dogs were rescued by Save-A-Pet in Port Jeff Station from an upstate home over the weekend and now up for adoption. Photo by Alex Petroski

The dogs from the upstate home are small, mixed breeds and overall they are in good health, according to Save-A-Pet Vice President Lynne Schoepfer.

“Stop in, meet them,” she said. “One is sweeter than the next. They all need homes. We’d love to have them all in homes by Christmas. They’re just really, really nice dogs.”

Schoepfer said the home was in “deplorable” condition when they arrived over the weekend. The rescue required two trips back and forth to get all the animals to the Port Jeff Station center. The owner of the home reached out to another group to help her, according to Schoepfer, which contacted Save-A-Pet asking if it could get involved.

“Unfortunately what happens is people think they’re doing good, and they don’t spay and neuter, and they just keep on taking in and then all of the sudden you have over 100 dogs in your house,” she said. “The woman was overwhelmed to say the least.”

In the short term, the facility is in need of money to feed the dogs and administer medical care, garbage bags, paper towels and rubber bath mats to help house the dogs until their adoption. A fundraiser will be held Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. at Portside Bar & Grill to help Save-A-Pet deal with its new tenants. Those interested in adopting can visit saveapetny.org to fill out an application, and can see photos of all of the available dogs on the Save-A-Pet Facebook page. Donations can also be sent through the website.

“We’re all about saving the animals and getting the animals in a safe environment, getting them re-homed into some place that’s going to love them and take care of them and do the right thing by them,” Schoepfer said.

Nunu wants a home outside the town animal shelter. Photo from Brookhaven Town

The town animal shelter is now open every day as part of an effort to get more dogs and cats adopted.

Supervisor Ed Romaine said the expanded hours would make it more convenient for people to visit the shelter in Brookhaven hamlet, which is located on Horseblock Road.

The Brookhaven Town Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is now open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-451-6950 or visit www.brookhaven.org/animalshelter.

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The Comsewogue Public Library held its second Pet Adoption Fair on April 23, showcasing several animals from local shelters who are looking for adoptive homes.

Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center, Brookhaven Animal Shelter, Grateful Paw Cat Shelter, Live Love Bark, the Long Island Parrot Society and other animal organizations brought some of their furry friends to the fair.

There were dogs of different ages and breeds greeting people inside the library, bringing light to a rainy day.

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Cause Four Paws co-director Jason Fluger with his dog Brooklyn. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Smithtown Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is joining with Commack Middle School and Dr. Michael Good, the founder of an initiative called Homeless Pet Clubs, in an effort to find homes for animals. Good flew in from Atlanta, Ga., to speak to a group of about 30 Commack middle schoolers on Thursday afternoon in the school’s auditorium.

Good, a veterinarian, formed the Homeless Pets Foundation — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — in 1998, according to its website. In 2010, Good started Homeless Pet Clubs as an adjunct to his foundation. The clubs are meant to encourage and organize students and community members to spread the word about specific animals that are in local shelters, in the hopes of finding suitable homes for adoption.

In an interview after the presentation, Good told the story of how he was inspired to start Homeless Pet Clubs a few years ago. He was attending an event for kindergarten age students designed to answer questions about a veterinarian’s job and what it entails. After about two hours of young children telling stories about their pets, rather than asking questions about becoming a vet, Good was hit with a stroke of inspiration, he said.

“What if we could get millions of kids all over this country telling stories about animals that don’t have homes?” Good asked. “That was the foundation of my Homeless Pet school clubs, and it has worked fabulously.”

The idea for Good’s clubs is fairly simple; Introduce homeless pets to middle school, or if Good has his way even younger-aged kids, allow them to spend time with the animals and take photos, and then empower the kids to spread the word about the animals. Kids are then made aware of when an animal is adopted, and given positive reinforcement for their role in saving a life. Commack’s version of the club will be the first on Long Island, although Good is always interested in expansion.

Renee Landsman and Jason Fluger teach at Commack Middle School, but they also run Cause Four Paws, an after-school club that meets monthly to educate students about animals and how to train them safely.

“Children love animals, and I think they should be encouraged to love animals,” Landsman said. Many Cause Four Paws students were in attendance for Good’s presentation, though they were not the only ones. Landsman and Fluger hope to make Good’s vision a schoolwide cause.

Smithtown animal shelter Director Susan Hansen also attended the event. She met Good at an event two years ago, she said. One of her first actions after beginning as the shelter’s director in August was to register on Good’s website to be a shelter rescue partner.

“At the shelter we’re approached on a regular basis by various Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth groups and individual kids that come to the shelter and say ‘I want to volunteer,’” Hansen said in an interview. “Unfortunately a lot of them are under 16 and at the shelter you need to be older to interact with the animals. I recognized that when you exclude that young population, you’re really discounting a tremendous resource, because as Dr. Good advocates, they can promote these animals virtually.”

Hansen believes in Good’s assertion that young students and social media can be valuable assets in finding homes for animals.

“Maybe you can’t give them a home, but maybe you know someone who can,” Hansen said about the importance of including youth in the effort to find homes for animals. “Spread the word and make a difference.”

For more information visit www.homelesspetclubs.org or call the Smithtown animal shelter at 631-360-7575.

Harborfields students Kaylee Perkowski, Alissa Barber, Allison Walkley, Ariella Walker and Emma Riley pose with donations they collected for local animal shelters. Photo from Daniel Barrett

Students at Harborfields High School believe ’tis the season to show your furry friends some extra love.

Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter
Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter

Members of the Global Justice Club and the Forensics Club are working together to raise money and collect donations for Little Shelter, Huntington Animal Shelter and Grateful Paw Cat Shelter, as well as spread the word on why adopting is better than shopping for a new pet.

Students collected pet supplies including food, treats, toys, litter, blankets and more. They have also raised about $200 by selling “opt to adopt” bracelets and pens, and plan to use the money to sponsor animals at the shelters, including Pascal from Little Shelter, a 12-year-old Pointer mix who needs a home.

“There are so many pets bought this time of year for the holidays, and while it’s true that a dog or cat make a great gift and provide so much joy to a family, there are lots of homeless pets waiting in our local shelters that would love to become part of a forever home,” Daniel Barrett, advisor of the Forensics Club, said in an email.

Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter
Pascal is a Pointer mix that the students of Harborfields are sponsoring. Photo from Little Shelter

Students Allison Walkley and Ariella Walker said it’s necessary for kids within the community to educate themselves about the importance of supporting their local shelters.

“Animals play a huge part in so many of our lives,” the girls said in a shared email statement on Monday morning. “They’re our companions and our family, but some animals out there don’t have a loving home. They’ve been thrown out on streets or they’ve been abused and neglected. The shelters are the orphanages for these animals, but so many don’t have enough funding or supplies to take in all the helpless dogs and cats.”

The Harborfields students will be collecting donations until Saturday, Dec. 19, when they will bring all the donations and money collected to the shelters.

Little Shelter is a no-kill, nonprofit animal shelter located on Warner Road in Huntington. It was established in 1927.

According to its website, it is Long Island’s oldest humane organization.

Huntington Animal Shelter and Grateful Paw Cat Shelter share a location on Deposit Road in East Northport, and both work with the Town of Huntington and the League for Animal Protection, Inc. LAP is a nonprofit organization established in 1973. Grateful Paw focuses on cat and kitten adoptions and has a spaying/neutering program.

Figgy is one of the dogs up for adoption at the animal shelter. Photo from Brookhaven Town

Residents who visit the Brookhaven Town Animal Shelter on Oct. 17 can adopt a dog or a cat for free, as part of a Halloween-themed “Barktoberfest” event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The family-friendly event also includes music, games and face painting.

While dog adoptions at the shelter typically cost $137 and cat adoptions cost $125, those fees will be waived. All animals have been spayed or neutered and microchipped, and received their vaccinations and licenses. They have also been tested for heartworm and fleas.

The shelter is located at 300 Horseblock Road in Brookhaven. For more information, call 631-451-6950 or visit www.brookhaven.org/animalshelter.

Penny just recently got adopted after more than a year at Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington. Photo from Arleen Leone

Huntington residents will have spaying, neutering, and adoption fees for pit bulls waived from Oct. 1 until Oct. 31 in recognition of National Pit Bull Awareness month.

Arleen Leone, the special programs manager of Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington, believes that every day should be pit bull awareness day.

“They are gentle, sweet loving dogs,” Leone said in a phone interview. “There is a huge need for education, and on a daily basis we try to bring awareness to these dogs.”

Leone said that Little Shelter has many different education programs. In one program, Leone said the shelter staff travel to approximately 100 schools a year and try to educate kids on how to handle themselves around different dogs. They also discuss the importance of spaying and neutering.

“They think they are pocket poodles,” Leone said of pit bulls. “All they want is love and affection.”

According to Leone, pit bulls were originally bred to be family dogs, however over the course of time, people began to breed them as fighting dogs. This “ruined the breed” and it’s why there is a need for much education about the animals. The shelter said they had a pit bull named Penny who took more than a year to get adopted because “she looked like something she was not.”

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) offered town board resolutions at the Sept. 16 Huntington Town Board meeting to waive the fees at the town animal shelter on Deposit Road in recognition of the month.

“Anytime we can help lower the amount of animals we have housed in shelter, regardless of the breed, is a good thing,” Berland said in a phone interview. 

Berland said that it is important to be smart about what kind of animal you chose to adopt and what type of household you’re bringing it into.

Although Berland does not own any pit bulls, some of her friends do, and she said they are “totally friendly and adorable.”

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Bob Hebert, left, and Darlene Ghents, right, with trainer Wendy Karyo and puppy Elijah, center. Photo from Hebert

A little bit of change has gone a long way for one Setauket-based wine shop.

Bob Hebert and his team at Hamlet Wines, 730 Rt. 25A, started collecting spare change about six months ago to benefit the Brookhaven Animal Shelter in order to pay for formal dog training for some of the dogs that have been in the shelter the longest.

The purpose behind the project, Hebert said, was to help the animals become more likely to find forever homes.

“A dog trained to walk on a leash, sit, stay has an easier chance of finding a forever family to adopt,” Hebert said. “Our customers have been amazing. In a short six months we have collected enough spare change to have a trainer come to the shelter and start to train.”

Hebert said the trainer also wants to help and committed to match every hour donated with one of her own.

The change collection for Brookhaven shelter dogs will continue through Dec. 31.

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A Boy Scout says hi to a puppy at the fourth annual Sound Beach Civic Association Pet Adopt-A-Thon. Photo by Giselle Barkley

The Hartlin Inn parking lot was full of furry friends from puppies to older dogs and kittens for the Sound Beach Civic Association’s fourth annual Pet Adopt-A-Thon in Sound Beach, Saturday.

Tanner is a 10-month-old hound that was up for adoption at the fourth annual Sound Beach Civic Association Pet Adopt-A-Thon. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Tanner is a 10-month-old hound that was up for adoption at the fourth annual Sound Beach Civic Association Pet Adopt-A-Thon. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Shelter’s and organizations like Save-A-Pet, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons, Grateful Greyhounds, Last Chance Animal Rescue, Long Island Bulldog Rescue and other organizations showed their many pets that are up for adoption. Organizations like the Regina Quinn Legacy Fund, which helps provide funds for animals in need, was also in attendance.

According to Bea Ruberto, president of the Sound Beach civic, four dogs and one cat were adopted several hours into the adopt-a-thon, and three more dogs were adopted by the end of the event. In addition to adopting pets, people could also get their face painted, enter a raffle to win a basket of pet-related prizes and donate money to organizations to help their cause.

All proceeds went to the animal organizations in attendance.

The Sound Beach Civic Association hosted its first Pet Adopt-A-Thon in 2012, and the association intends on continuing its efforts to find loving homes for local pets in need.

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