The answer to that question depends on what type of gift in your will was left. Generally speaking, under New York estate law, if you leave something as a “specific gift” (my car to…) then the gift will fail and the person will receive nothing if the item mentioned in the “specific gift” is not available.
If the gift is a “demonstrative gift” (give John the $5,000 from the sale of my car), if the item is not available to sell then this gift is treated as a general gift and the gift does not fail. Instead, the money could come from a source as if it was a general legacy (gift).
General legacies(“$5,000 to bill”) or general gifts typically do not fail as long as there is some amount of money in the estate.
The only way to really determine what will happen regarding gifts in a will, in New York, is to speak with a New York estate attorney who can advise you on your specific issues. If you wish to speak to an NYC estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233. Also available at a Garden City, Long Island office.