Dying without a will in NY means that your estate will have to go through the Estate Administration process. This is how the estate is typically distributed for someone dying without a will in New York:
• The surviving wife or husband of the person dying without a will gets the entire estate if there are no children
• The surviving wife of the person dying without a will get the first $50,000 of the estate, half of the remaining estate will go to the wife too, and the rest will be divided between the surviving children.
• If one or more children died before the person dying 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, especially with relationship and degrees 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.
For a person dying without a will in NY, the distribution of their estate may or may not reflect their true wishes. When the legislators wrote the law, they figured that’s what most people would want, but some people might for example not want their distant cousin to inherit their estate, they would rather have their friend inherit. Or dying without a will and leaving behind a long-time girlfriend, who would get nothing because there is no will.
New York courts have separate departments for Estate Administration (for estates of decedents dying without a will) and Estate Probate (for estates of persons dying with a will).
Dying without a will in NY presents a set of complications and challenges. New York City estate lawyer Albert Goodwin, Esq. has more than a decade of experience dealing with such estates. He can be reached at (212) 233-1233.