Question: I am unmarried and have no children. My parents are deceased and I have one sibling, a sister. I currently have no will. Who would inherit from my estate if I died without a will?
Answer: Passing away without a will is known as dying “intestate.” Administration is the process in which a person receives authorization from the Court to collect the deceased person’s assets, pays the debts, and then distributes the remaining assets to the entitled family members.
In an administration proceeding, it must be determined who are the next of kin of the deceased person, these are known as the “distributees.” New York State law defines a distributee as a “person entitled to take or share in the property of a decedent under the statutes governing descent and distribution.” The law determines who falls into this category based upon which members of your family are living at the time of your death. Priority is given to spouses and children, then to grandchildren. If you do not have any of these relations, then priority shifts to your parents, then to your siblings. The law follows your family tree until a living person is found in a certain category.
The spouse has priority to serve as administrator over the children. If there is no spouse, the children have equal rights to serve. Similarly, if you do not have children, all of your siblings have equal rights to act as administrator. Any person that is not acting will sign a document waiving their right to serve.
In your scenario, since you are unmarried, do not have children, and your parents are deceased, your sister would be your distributee and would inherit your entire estate if you die without a will. If your sister predeceases you, then her children would step into her place and inherit.
Depending on your relationship, you may not want your sibling to inherit from your estate. If you do not want your sibling to inherit, you should speak to an estate planning attorney regarding your estate plan so that you can make arrangements for your assets to be given to those you choose in a will or trust. If you do not make arrangements and execute estate planning documents, then the laws of the State of New York decide who inherits from your estate.