When a person passes away without having a valid New York will, they are declared dying intestate. The decedent’s children, spouse and other heirs are entitled to inherit the decedent’s property under the New York intestate succession laws. The family will usually hire a New York probate and estate attorney to file the appropriate paperwork with the New York Surrogate’s Court so that the court can issue Letters of Administration appointing an administrator of the estate. The administrator will then need to perform a number of tasks such as locating the decedent’s assets. The children and other family members may be helpful in finding assets as well. An accounting will need to be made, creditor’s claims paid and the assets distributed to the spouse, children and other heirs entitled to inherit under the New York intestate laws.
Keep in mind that when heirs inherit property under intestate laws in New York, the distribution of the assets may not necessarily reflect the decedent’s true wishes. When a testator makes a will, the testator has control over how the testator’s assets will be distributed when the testator dies. If there is no valid will in place, or the testator had a will, but it is lost, the heirs can only inherit the assets under the New York intestate laws.
Intestate laws are complicated, and most heirs rely on the expertise of a New York probate and estate to help guide them through the intestate process so they can receive their inheritances.
The following is a summary of the New York succession laws:
• The surviving spouse is entitled to inherit 100% of the decedent’s estate when the decedent has no children
• When there is no surviving spouse, the children inherit the entire estate divided equally amongst them
• If there are both a surviving spouse and children, then the spouse inherits the first $50,000 in assets and half of the remainder of the estate. The other half of the estate goes to the decedent’s children
• The decedent’s grandchildren etc. inherit if none of the above are alive
• If none of the above relatives exist, the decedent’s parents are next in line, then siblings, then aunts/uncles, and then cousins.
If you wish to speak to a New York estate attorney about an estate of someone who died without a will in New York, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.