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How are assets divided when one dies without a will in New York?

For people in New York who have not yet moved forward with estate planning or have a loved one who died without a will, it is important to know what will happen. For those with significant assets or limited assets, it is wise to think about a basic estate plan, regardless of the circumstances. If there was no will, the heirs should have legal help as well.

When there is no will, there are certain rules for who gets what. In a situation where the decedent was married but did not have any children, everything will automatically be given to the spouse. If there were children but no spouse, the children will be left everything. If there was a spouse and children, the spouse will get the first $50,000 and half of the balance. Children will receive everything else. If the parents of the decedent are still alive but there is no spouse or children, the parents will get everything. If there are siblings and no spouse, children or parents, the siblings will get everything.

When children are set to inherit from the parents, there must be a parent-child relationship. An adopted child will be viewed the same way as a biological child. Unless foster children or stepchildren were legally adopted, they will not inherit anything. If there was a child born outside the marriage, paternity must be shown before the child can inherit anything. When a child has died prior to the decedent and the child had children of their own, the grandchildren will inherit in the place of the child who died. For decedents who have no family whatsoever, the state will receive the property.

Will planning is imperative, not just because it lets the testator determine who will receive what, but, if there are people outside the family that the person wishes to give assets to, they must be included in a will. Understanding how intestacy will affect the distribution of assets is essential. Those who have had a loved one die intestate should have legal assistance from an attorney experienced in estate administration.

Source: nycourts.gov, "When There Is No Will," accessed on Jan. 23, 2018

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