When a person dies without a will

On Behalf of | Dec 14, 2020 | Estate Administration & Probate |

New York residents die intestate when they pass away without leaving behind a last will and testament. In these situations, state law determines how their assets will be distributed. Before this happens, a person must be appointed to administer the estate. This is normally the decedent’s surviving spouse as they are the closest distributee. If the decedent’s spouse does not wish to accept this responsibility, they can sign a renunciation and the next closest distributee will be appointed to administer the estate. Surviving spouses who sign renunciations are still entitled to a share of the decedent’s estate.

Bitter disputes

The families of individuals who die intestate may become embroiled in bitter disputes if the state law dealing with asset distribution is not in line with verbal promises or assurances the decedent made when they were alive. Some analysts believe that this could happen when the estate of Tony Hsieh is administered. The former CEO of the Zappos retail chain died of smoke inhalation at the age of 46 after a fire broke out in a Connecticut home. Initial reports suggest that he did not leave a will.

Asset distribution in New York

The surviving spouse of a person who dies intestate in New York inherits the entire estate if there are no children, and their property is divided equally among the children if there is no surviving spouse. When a person who died intestate has a surviving spouse and children, the spouse receives the first $50,000 and half of the remaining assets. The rest of the estate is divided among the children. When there is no surviving spouse or children, other relatives such as siblings, parents, grandparents or even cousins may inherit. If the decedent had no surviving relatives at all, their property will pass to the state.

Putting an estate plan into place

If you have not written a last will and testament, an attorney with estate planning experience would likely advise you to do so without delay even if you are young and expect to live for many years. An attorney could also suggest that you consider incorporating trusts into your estate plan. Trusts could give you more control over how your assets will be divided when you pass away, and they may also provide you with tax benefits while you are alive.