If you want your siblings to inherit your assets, you can also make a will or trust naming your siblings as heirs and beneficiaries specifying which assets you wish them to receive. Your executor of your will and trustee of the trust must follow your instructions when making distributions to your heirs and beneficiaries.
If you want to distribute some of your assets while you are living to your siblings or other heirs, there are several ways to do so – gifting assets, holding assets such as bank accounts or other financial accounts jointly, holding real property as joint tenants with right of survivorship or naming your siblings as beneficiaries under a life insurance policy or retirement account.
If you have not left a valid will or trust, then this means you are considering dying intestate under New York laws. Your heirs will need to establish an intestate estate administration proceeding with the New York City Surrogate’s Court. This means that your property will be subject to distribution in accordance with the NY intestate laws and that your property may not be distributed in the manner you intended. There is a possibility then that your siblings may not receive any of your property depending on which of your heirs and beneficiaries survive you because certain heirs have priority in receiving your assets under the intestate law.
The right of succession laws in New York City set forth the priority of beneficiaries and heirs who are entitled to receive your property as follows:
• If you have a surviving spouse and no children, then your surviving spouse inherits all your property
• If you have a surviving spouse and children, then your spouse gets 50% of your estate and the remaining 50% is divided equally among your children.
• If one of your children predeceases you, then that child’s percentage is divided equally amongst their children (your grandchildren/descendants), or if they have no children, then equally among your surviving children.
• If you have no surviving spouse, children or descendants, then your parents inherit your property.
• If your parents do no survive you, then your property is divided equally among your surviving siblings.
So basically what this all means to you is that under New York intestate laws, the only time your siblings would be entitled to receive your property is when you have no surviving spouse, children, descendants or parents surviving.
If it is your intention to leave your siblings some of your property, then you should make sure that your intentions are reflected properly in your will and/or trust. Having a valid will and/or trust also saves your family money and time and avoids disagreements over your property amongst your surviving family members.
To make sure that your property is distributed the way you want, then it is important to seek estate planning advice from a competent New York estate planning attorney. If you wish to speak to a New York City estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.