Despite the fact that most people understand the importance of having at least a basic estate plan in place, over half of all American do not have one. If you die without leaving behind even a Last Will and Testament, your estate must be administered as an “intestate” estate. If you are one of the millions of adults who has yet to create an estate plan, you need to know what happens to an intestate estate in New York. Once you understand why an estate plan is so important you might finally find the incentive to contact a New York estate planning attorney and get started on your plan.
“I Don’t Have a Big Enough Estate to Bother with an Estate Plan”
…and Other Common Reasons for Failing to Have an Estate Plan in Place
People are often under the misperception that they need to have amassed a small fortune, or reached a certain age, before an estate plan becomes important. The truth, however, is that every adult should have at least a basic Last Will and Testament in place without regard to the size of their estate, their age, marital status, or any other factor. There are three important reasons why everyone needs a Will:
- Without a Will the New York intestate succession laws will dictate what happens to your estate assets, meaning you are allowing the state to decide what to do with your assets.
- Without a Will you have no idea who will be in charge of administering your estate.
- Your Will is the only opportunity you have to nominate someone to be your children’s Guardian should one ever be needed.
The New York Intestate Succession Laws
When you die, your estate will be required to go through the legal process known as “Administration.” Administration serves several important functions:
- Ensures that estate assets are identified, located, and eventually transferred to the intended beneficiaries and/or heirs of the estate.
- Gives creditors of the estate the opportunity to file claims against the estate.
- Ensures that Uncle Sam is paid before assets leave the estate.
If you die intestate, or without leaving behind a valid Will, your estate assets will be distributed using the New York Intestate Succession Laws. While you may have yet to amass your fortune, the assets you do have are likely the result of your hard work. Moreover, you may have sentimental items that have a personal significance or family heirlooms that you intend to leave to specific people. Those intentions won’t be honored if you die intestate. Instead, your assets will be distributed as follows if you die in New York:
- If you leave behind a spouse but no children, your spouse gets everything.
- If you leave behind children but no spouse, your children get everything.
- If you leave behind a spouse and children, the spouse inherits the first $50,000 plus half of the balance. The children inherit everything else.
- If you leave behind parents but no spouse or children, your parents get everything.
- If you leave behind siblings but no spouse, children, or parents, your siblings get everything.
As you can see, beneficiaries such as a best friend, a favorite nephew, or a special charity are not on the list and will, therefore, receive nothing from your estate.
Choosing an Executor
Another reason to not die intestate is that if you do, you have no idea who will oversee the Administration of your estate. In your Will, you appoint someone as the Executor of your estate; however, if you failed to leave behind a Will, anyone can volunteer to be your Personal Representative. Worse, still, if no one steps up the court will appoint someone you don’t even know to be in charge of administering your estate, usually the Public Administrator!
Nominating a Guardian
For a parent, the ability to nominate a Guardian for your underage children should be all the incentive you need to execute a Will. In the event both parents are unable, or unwilling, to continue to care for your children, a court must appoint a Guardian. The only opportunity you have to tell a judge who you would appoint is in your Last Will and Testament.
Please take a moment to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns relating to the New York intestate succession laws, contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.