Dying Without a Will – Who Inherits?

estate planning lawyer Long IslandWhen an individual who has not written a will dies, it is said he or she died intestate. Intestate succession in New York State deals with the distribution of assets as follows:

 

  • If the individual who dies did not have a spouse at the time of his or her death, and he or she had children, the children would inherit all of the assets.
  • If the individual who died had a spouse and no children, the spouse would inherit everything.
  • If the individual who died had a spouse and children, the spouse would inherit the first $50,000 of the decedent’s assets, and 50% of all other assets of the decedent.
  • If the individual who died had parents who survived him or her and no spouse and no children, the parents would inherit all of this individual’s assets.
  •   If the individual who died had no parents who survived him or her, no spouse and no children, but had brothers and/or sisters, the brothers and/or sisters would receive all of the assets.
  •   If the situation gets beyond this point you should hire an estates lawyer to go through a more detailed inheritance chart.

Assets Which Pass Outside of an Individual’s Estate

Many assets do not pass under an intestate estate if the individual dies without a will, or pursuant to the terms of a will even if an individual who dies has a will. These types of assets are referred to as testamentary substitutes, which do not pass either by intestate succession or pursuant to the terms of a will. The following is a list of some testamentary substitutes which would pass outside of an individual’s estate:

  • The proceeds of life insurance contracts
  • Funds maintained in a pension, IRA, 401(k), 403(b) or other retirement accounts which has an internal beneficiary designation related to the account
  • Assets maintained in a living trust
  • Bank accounts and/or securities held in transfer on death accounts
  • Property you own pursuant to a joint tenancy or a tenancy by the entirety (tenancy by the entirety applies to property owned by a husband and wife)

Dealing With Estate Issues

Most individuals do not understand estate succession laws and the complexities involved in the transferring of assets in estates. In the event a family friend, loved one, spouse, child or other individual who was close to you passes and you feel you are entitled to an inheritance from this individual, the best way to see to it your inheritance rights are protected, is to hire an experienced estates lawyer. The estate lawyer’s job will be to see to it all of your rights to inherit are protected.wills and trusts lawyer