Intestate succession in New York State

Making a will is an important task many people tend to put off. However, avoiding estate planning can result in various problems for one’s family.

In the absence of a will, New York probate courts will apply the laws governing intestate succession. Contrary to what some people may assume, the results may not coincide with one’s wishes, even when one does not have a large family.

Estate planning is important

Owners of businesses or other complex or high-value assets should take particular care in making their dispositions. While many turn to alternative instruments such as trusts to avoid probate, it is important to review your options with a qualified attorney to ensure their effectiveness.

Who inherits under intestacy?

If a person passes away leaving a surviving spouse and children, New York law provides that the spouse gets $50,000, plus half the remaining estate. The children get equal shares of the other half.  If no spouse or children survive the deceased, the estate goes to the parents. If there are no surviving parents, then to siblings. If none of these survive, potential heirs may include grandparents, aunts or uncles, or their descendants. If the deceased has surviving grandchildren whose parents are also deceased, they receive the share their parent would otherwise have received.

For the purposes of intestacy, children must be biological or legally adopted. Stepchildren would not inherit without a will designating them as beneficiaries. If there are no family members who can inherit under intestacy laws, the estate may pass to the state.

Estate administration

The probate court will typically appoint an administrator for an intestate estate whose assets total $30,000 or higher. This person fulfills duties similar to those of an executor. The closest relative to inherit under intestacy law may file a petition to serve as administrator.

Planning your estate in advance can help avoid a lot of problems and preserve your assets. Your attorney can give you specific advice as to your options and address concerns such as taxation, asset management and more.

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