Intestate succession is not a legal concept that many New Yorkers are familiar with. It refers to the system of beneficiaries that state law recognizes when a person dies without a valid will. If an individual owns property or assets at the time of their death and does not direct it to beneficiaries through an estate plan, intestate succession takes control of the distribution.
This post does not provide any legal advice and should be read as information only. It is intended to educate readers on how the law will impact their estate if they do not proactively work to plan for their own intentions and desires. The help of an estate planning attorney can assist those who wish to avoid the outcomes of intestate succession and who want to decide where their estates are distributed.
Following the family tree through intestate succession
New York’s intestate succession laws are fairly simple. If a person dies without a will and with a spouse but no kids, their spouse receives all of their property. If they die with a spouse and children, the spouse receives $50,000 plus one-half of the decedent’s estate, and the rest goes to the kids.
Things become more complicated when a person dies without kids or a spouse. Their assets effectively pass up to their parents, and if their parents predeceased them, then down to their siblings. If a person outlives their spouse, kids, parents, and siblings, their estate will pass up to their grandparents, and then down to aunts and uncles. Effectively, intestate succession follows a person’s family tree to find closely related relatives to serve as estate beneficiaries.
Taking control of one’s own estate plan
Intestate succession is a failsafe process that creates structure to beneficiary identification if a person does not communicate their testamentary intentions through an estate plan. It is not, however, what most individuals want to see happen with their end-of-life estates. To avoid intestate succession, an individual can create and execute their own estate plan with the help and support of a dedicated estate planning lawyer.