When a person dies without a will (intestate) in New York City, their estate goes through the Estate Administration process. Although you probably should not make an actual distribution without consulting an attorney and have the beneficiaries sign a Waiver and Consent, this is how the estate is typically distributed in intestacy in New York:
• The surviving wife or husband of the person who died without a will gets the entire estate if there are no children
• The surviving wife or husband the person who died without a will get the first $50,000 of the estate, half of the remaining estate will go to the wife or husband too, and the rest will be divided between the surviving children.
• If one or more children died before the person who died without a will, their share goes to their children (not to the other siblings).
• If no husband, wife, children or grandchildren, parents get the estate
• If no parents, siblings
• If no siblings, aunts, uncles
• If no aunts and uncles, cousins
• No family or heirs – property goes to the State of New York
This is a straightforward way of looking at it, but sometimes there are complications applying intestate succession laws, especially with relationship and degree of relationship. Also, a will may or may not turn up, and sometimes there are documents that may or may not be a Will.
It makes sense to first look for a Will before filing a Petition for Administration in intestacy, without a Will. A Will can be found in a safe deposit box, in storage, in the place where the person lived, or by a friend, relative or attorney.
New York courts have separate departments for Estate Administration (for estates of decedents who died without a will) and Estate Probate (for estates of persons who died with a will).
If you have a question for a New York City estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.