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How is property distributed if there is no will?

When a person dies in New York, many heirs are surprised to find that the person did not leave a valid will. This is known as a dying intestate. Intestacy can be a problem for heirs as they will not get certain items from the estate they might have been promised or were expecting. There are certain laws in the state that will be adhered to if there was not a will. While this is not an ideal situation, it is important to understand what the law says and have legal assistance throughout the process.

If a person dies without a will, the property will be distributed after debts, expenses for estate administration and funeral costs have been deducted. Under the law, descendants are referred to as "issue." If the decedent was married and there was issue, the spouse will receive $50,000 and half of what was left in terms of residuary estate, known as residue. The rest will go to the descendants. If there was a spouse and no issue, the entirety of the estate goes to the spouse. If there was no spouse, but there was issue, the entire estate will go to the issue.

If one or both parents are alive, there was no spouse and no issue, the entire estate will go to the parents. If there are issue of the parents, no spouse, issue or parent, the issue of the parents will get the estate. If there is no spouse and there is one or more grandparents or issue of the grandparents, half will go to the paternal grandparent(s). If neither is still alive, it will go to their issue with the other half going to the maternal grandparent(s). If neither is still alive, it will go to their issue. With great-grandchildren and no spouse or any other relatives, half will go to the great-grandchildren of the paternal grandparent(s); the other half to the great-grandchildren of the maternal grandparent(s).

An adoptive child has the right to have a distributive share and the right of succession in the estate. People who have a loved one die intestate might not know how the law views such a circumstance. It can be a complicated part of estate planning for the heirs and descendants to face. However, having legal help with estate administration is vital even if the person died without crafting a will.

Source: findlaw.com, "4-1.1 -- Descent anddistribution of a decedent's estate," accessed on Dec. 19, 2017

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