If an individual passed away without having a will, the person is considered to have died intestate. Once this occurs the intestacy laws in New York will decide how the decedent’s property will be distributed. Without a last will and testament, the surviving spouse inherits the entire probate estate in the case that there are no children or other descendants. The estate will still have to pass through the probate process if it has a value of over $30,000. Without a will in place, the court will decide how the assets will be distributed, which could potentially counter the wishes and best interests of the decedent.
Typically, only assets that would have originally passed through the will are directly affected by intestate succession laws. A spouse that survives the decedent will inherit $50,000 of the intestate property, and any surviving children inherit the remaining balance. If you pass away without any living family remaining, then the state will uphold your property, however this occurs extremely rarely. If there is no Will present, then there is a set regulation for who can file for administration or a small estate. Commonly, the "closest distributee” is responsible for filing for administration or small estate.
It’s important to know that just because someone may have died intestate in NY does not mean that they will have property for beneficiaries to inherit. Non-probate assets, such as accounts with beneficiary designations or jointly owned property, will not be controlled by the New York inheritance laws in relation to the death of an individual without a will in place in New York. Additionally, half siblings will be treated in a manner equivalent to that of direct siblings. The same principle is applied towards adopted children and foster children. Who gets what and in which amount will depend on who the living relatives are and their relationship to the person who passed away based on the New York Intestate Succession laws. If you or a loved one are looking to set up a will, we highly recommend that you seek out a licensed estate planning attorney who can guide you through the waters of estate planning.