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Home > Blog > Estate Planning > Who Inherits Property When There Is No Will?

Who Inherits Property When There Is No Will?

The passing of a loved one can happen suddenly and with no warning, or as the result of a long and lingering illness. In either case, one of the most common concerns families have in the aftermath is how any remaining property will be divided. Having a legal will in place is part of sound estate planning, but unfortunately making sure their will is updated and valid is something that many people delay until it is too late. In the event a loved one dies without a will, who will their estate go to? The answer depends on the family members who survive them, as well as those who died prior to their passing.

New York Intestacy Laws

The term intestate is used to describe someone who dies without a will in place. When this occurs, all of their assets and property will be distributed through the New York Court System according to the rules of intestate succession. These rules provide a guideline based upon the relationships the deceased had during their lives, as well as any surviving family members that exist. While failing to have a will can have strong impacts and generate great controversy among the surviving family members, the actual guidelines for intestate succession are fairly simple:

  • If the deceased had a spouse and no children, the spouse inherits everything;
  • If the deceased had a spouse and children, the spouse inherits the first $50,000 plus half the total balance of the estate, and the remainder is divided among the children;
  • If the deceased had children but no spouse, the estate is equally divided among the children;
  • If the deceased had no spouse or children, the parents would inherit everything. If the parents are deceased, the deceased’s siblings would then inherit everything.

Where this process can get confusing is when either a child or sibling of the deceased dies prior to the deceased themselves. In the event that children of a deceased person are due to inherit, but one of the children has already passed, their existing children (the grandchildren of the deceased) would inherit. The same holds true if there is no spouse, children, or parents and the siblings are due to inherit. If one of the siblings died previously, their children would would inherit their parent’s (the sibling’s) share.

The Value of A Will

In most cases, people have fairly firm ideas on who they want to inherit their estate, as well as what portion they want each person to inherit. Dying without a will can be confusing and end up costing your loved one’s money in the long run, as your death certificate will need to be filed with the New York Surrogate’s Court and go through what can be a lengthy probate process to ensure all those with a valid claim to your estate through the laws of intestate succession are accounted for before any property is distributed. A will allows you to choose a trusted representative for your estate, and can help to ensure that your assets and money serve your intended purposes, such as paying for a college education for a grandchild, or ensuring financial security for certain loved ones not related by blood or marriage.

Reach Out to Us for Assistance

If you have been putting off creating a will or need to update or review your existing estate documents, contact Cavallo & Cavallo today. Our experienced New York estate planning attorneys offer friendly, convenient service and trusted legal guidance to help ensure your hard earned assets are protected.

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