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What Happens if Someone Dies Without a Will?

Published September 13, 2022

By Brian L. Miller, Esq.

If someone dies without a valid will, the court will divide their assets according to the New York intestacy laws. These rigid laws are intended to be a backup plan to ensure that someone’s assets have somewhere to go upon their death and do not end up escheating to the state. The New York intestacy laws do not consider an individual’s preferences and typically divide assets equally to all similarly situated heirs.

In some cases, the intestacy laws work as one would expect. For example, if you die without a will and have five children with no spouse, all your assets will be divided equally among your children. Or, if you die with no children and a spouse, your spouse will inherit everything. However, in other situations, the situation can become more complicated. For example, if a spouse and children are left behind, the spouse can inherit the first fifty thousand dollars of intestate property plus one-half of the remaining balance. The children would inherit everything else. While this may work for some families, that isn’t the case if you question one or more child’s ability to manage an inheritance responsibly.

Intestate laws also fail to consider the needs of your heirs. For example, if you have a daughter who is a successful doctor and a son who is a struggling actor, the intestate laws would treat your children equally. While that may be your intention, perhaps you wanted to give your son a little more wealth to support his lifetime dream, knowing that your daughter has already achieved hers.

Creating a will is easy to clarify how you want your assets distributed upon your death. Not only does a will ensure that your wishes are honored, but it also allows you to discuss your estate plans with your family. This can help avoid disputes between siblings and other family members.

At Littman Krooks, LLP, we have over 30 years of experience working with individuals and families to plan for their future. Our knowledgeable team of estate planning lawyers command an impressive knowledge of all the New York estate planning laws and how they impact our clients’ choices. We can help you find an effective solution to your estate planning issues. To learn more about how our dedicated attorneys can assist your family with its unique needs, call 914-684-2100 to schedule a no-obligation consultation today.

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