Q: Who would inherit my property if I died without a Will?
A: If you die without a Will, the New York State law of intestate succession will determine who inherits your property. Intestate succession applies only to property held in your sole name. Certain account or assets would pass to the beneficiary named on the account. For instance, assets held in joint accounts would pass to the joint owner. An insurance policy or retirement benefits which name beneficiaries would also pass directly to the beneficiary and outside of the probate process. The following person(s) would inherit under the law of intestate succession:
If you are survived by a spouse and children, $50,000 and half of the estate to your spouse, and the balance to your children or children of a predeceased child;
A spouse and no children, to the spouse;
Children and no spouse, to the children or any issue of a predeceased child;
One or both parents, and no spouse or children, to the surviving parent or parents;
If no spouse, issue or parents, to siblings or the children of any predeceased siblings;
If none of the above, half passes to the paternal grandparents, or to the children of the paternal grandparents (aunts and uncles) or children of predeceased aunts and uncles (first cousins) if both grandparents are deceased. The other half passes to the maternal relatives in the same manner. If there is no one surviving on either the paternal or maternal side, the entire estate passes to the other side; or
If none of the above, half to the children of the predeceased first cousins on the paternal side and half to the children of the predeceased first cousins on the maternal side. If there are no survivors on one side, the whole estate passes to the other side.
If none of the above, the estate passes to the State of New York.
The above distribution can be avoided with a properly drafted Will or Trust. Don’t rely on named beneficiaries. We see many occasions where a decedent dies and the named beneficiary has predeceased. Also, there are many assets that do not give you the opportunity to name beneficiaries. Furthermore, the orderly administration of your estate should be handled by a trusted individual named by you. Administration includes caring for and disposing of your personal property, selling real property and preparing and filing an estate tax return due.
By: Nancy Burner, Esq. and Kera Reed, Esq.