When you die, the assets you leave behind that make up your estate will likely need to go through the legal process known as “probate.” A number of important things occur during the probate process, which culminates with the distribution of your assets to the intended beneficiaries of your estate if you left behind a Last Will and Testament. What are the New York inheritance laws if you failed to leave behind a Will? What happens to your estate assets in that case? What else is different if you die without having a Will in place? The best way to ensure you understand the answers to these questions is to consult with an experienced New York estate planning attorney; however, some basic information may be beneficial to you as well.
Testate vs. Intestate Estates
First, it helps to learn the lingo. A “testate” estate is an estate where the decedent left behind a valid Last Will and Testament while an “intestate” estate is one in which the decedent failed to leave behind a Will. Each individual state has laws that dictate what will happen to the assets of an estate wherein the decedent died intestate.
New York Inheritance Laws
If you die intestate, the New York inheritance laws, or intestate succession laws, will govern the disposition of your entire estate as follows:
- 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, dying intestate means a number of important people in your life may receive nothing from your estate. For example, you may have promised something special to a best friend who will not receive that gift. You might have a favorite niece or nephew to whom you planned to leave a college fund contribution but that gift won’t be honored either. Finally, if you have a charity that is close to your heart while you are alive you may wish to leave a contribution in your estate plan but that won’t happen either if your die intestate. Instead, the New York inheritance laws will distribute your estate assets exactly as mentioned above which brings up another problem with dying intestate – the potential need to sell assets. In order to create the distribution called for by the New York intestate succession laws your estate assets may need to be liquidated. For many people, this possibility alone is enough to make sure they don’t die intestate!
Please take a moment to download our FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have questions or concerns relating to the New York inheritance laws or the benefits of not dying intestate, contact the experienced New York estate planning attorneys at the Law Offices of Kobrick & Moccia by calling 800-295-1917 to schedule your appointment.