Recent surveys indicate that only about one-third of Americans have a will. A common question is what happens to the assets belonging of those who die without a will.
Like every other state, New York has laws — known as intestate laws — that specify how a person’s property or assets are distributed if they die without a will.
These laws generally try to reflect what most people would want for their estate.
For example, New York law provides that all property of a married person without children will pass to their spouse. Along the same line, if a person dies with children but no spouse, each child will inherit an equal share of the person’s estate.
For a married person with children, a spouse will inherit the first $50,000 of the estate and half of any remaining assets, while the children will inherit the remaining half of the estate. If a person has no spouse or children, their parents or siblings will inherit the estate.
New York includes further provisions for distribution of property to other relatives if a person has no spouse, children, parents or siblings.
If a person has no surviving relatives, the estate passes to the State of New York.
Record your wishes
The best way to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes is to execute a will. Perhaps you wish to leave assets to a friend or charity. Or maybe you want to leave specific property to certain relatives.
Whatever your wishes, you can execute a will specifying how to distribute your estate. A knowledgeable attorney can advise on the best ways to fulfill your wishes and assist with drafting a will or other estate planning document.