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What happens when New York residents die without wills?

Some people think estate planning is something to consider when they are older. However, they may not understand what will happen if they should die suddenly with no wills in place. The assets of any New York person who dies without a Last Will and Testament will be subject to the intestacy succession laws of the state.

If there are surviving spouses and descendants such as children and grandchildren, a specific portion of the deceased person's probate estate will go to the surviving spouse. The balance will be divided between the surviving spouse and the descendants of the deceased spouse, per stirpes. If there is no surviving spouse, the entire estate will go to the descendants, and if there is only a surviving spouse, he or she will inherit the whole probate estate.

In a case in which the deceased person leaves no spouse or children behind, his or her parents or surviving parent will receive the probate estate. Absent any surviving parents, the decedent's siblings will inherit the estate, or their descendants will inherit the estate if the decedent's siblings have passed away. If a person dies without any surviving family, the State of New York will receive the entire probate estate.

In addition to what happens to their property upon death, people should consider what will happen to any minor children they may have. What if both parents die? Who will take care of the children and manage their inheritance? An experienced estate planning attorney can assist with the drafting of wills and trusts to avoid circumstances in which a judge who is unfamiliar with the surviving family ends up being one who will make decisions about these critical matters.

Source:, "Dying Without a Last Will in New York", Julie Garber, Accessed on Feb.18, 2018

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