If someone dies without a will in New York, succession laws would dictate which relatives receive what percentage of the inheritance. It is usually better to have a will or trust in place, prepared by a New York probate and estate attorney, to avoid an intestate administration proceeding and make sure that the decedent’s wishes are fulfilled.
When there is no will, the family of the decedent must ask the New York Surrogate’s Court to issue Letters of Administration to appoint an administrator to take charge of the estate. The administrator is expected to follow the New York intestacy law in distributing the assets. If a family agrees to a different arrangement, the agreement has to be in writing and approved by the court. As long as everyone is informed and agrees to the distribution in writing, the Court will generally approve and the administrator will be allowed to make the distribution. If the family members or interested parties are unable to agree on estate matters, then the Court will decide for them and make a ruling on how to distribute the assets to the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries under New York intestate laws.
Under New York’s intestate succession laws, the surviving spouse is entitled to 100% of the estate if there are no children. If the decedent has a surviving spouse and children, then the surviving spouse receives the first $50,000 of the estate and one-half of all remaining assets. The decedent’s children receive the remaining half of the estate divided equally amongst each child. The grandchildren of a deceased child of the decedent would be entitled to inherit the deceased child’s portion. If there is no surviving spouse or children, then the parents and the siblings of the decedent would be entitled to receive the assets of the estate. Aunts, uncles and cousins may be entitled to an inheritance of the decedent’s assets if there are no closer relatives.
An intestate administration proceeding can be avoided by transferring all or a portion of the assets to them during lifetime, hold property in joint ownership, including real estate, bank accounts, investment accounts and other assets, designate a beneficiary for life insurance, pension and profit-sharing accounts, transfer assets to a trust or make a valid will. This way, the spouse is provided for, children will receive their rightful inheritances, other beneficiaries or heirs will also receive a share of the estate.
If you wish to discuss New York estate planning with an attorney, you can call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.