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How does intestacy affect my estate after death?

For people who have died and did not have a valid will, their estate is considered intestate. This means that there was no will and the distribution of assets will be based on the law for such circumstances. New York residents who fail to have even a basic estate plan should be aware of what this can do to the loved ones who are relegated to receiving their portions of the estate not based on what the person wants, but based on statute.

Intestacy is to distribute the assets even if there was not a will. Without a will, the person's stated or known desires are irrelevant. If there is a surviving spouse, that person will be entitled to get the whole estate after all outstanding taxes and other costs are paid or he or she will get a significant portion of it.

Examples of how estates are divided in such a circumstance include the following: the spouse will get the whole estate if the person who died had children who were all sired by the decedent and the living spouse; the surviving spouse can get the entire estate if there are no descendants or his or her parents have died; if there are parents still living but no descendants, the surviving spouse gets the first $200,000 plus three-quarters of everything beyond that; if there are descendants who are not descendants of the spouse left behind, that spouse will receive the first $150,000 plus half of whatever is left; if there are no descendants who are descendants of the spouse left behind, but there are descendants who are not from that spouse, the surviving spouse gets the first $100,000 and half of whatever is left.

With no spouse but descendants, the descendants get everything. With no spouse nor descendants, the parents get everything. If there are no descendants and no parents, but there are relatives, the entire net estate goes to the relatives based on whomever is left behind as a relative - grandparents, siblings or any other relation. People who think that an estate plan is not necessary should be aware of how intestacy can affect their assets after they are gone. Discussing the importance of estate administration with a legal professional can help with avoiding dying intestate and the accompanying problems.

Source: estate.findlaw.com, "Understanding Intestacy: If You Die Without an Estate Plan," accessed on Sept. 19, 2017

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