What Happens If You Pass Away Without a Will?

A lot of New Yorkers put off creating a will. Some believe that they haven’t accumulated enough personal wealth to make it necessary while others tell themselves that they’ll wait until they have children. It’s likely that many more hold back because they don’t like thinking about their own mortality.

Benjamin Franklin allegedly once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” This is especially true in estate planning. If you don’t create a will or otherwise plan for the distribution of your estate after you’re gone, the results can (and probably will) be the opposite of what you would have wanted.

The New York Laws of Intestacy

If you die without a will in New York state, your estate is distributed according to the New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law, which states:

  • If you have a spouse but no children, your spouse receives everything
  • If you are married with children, your husband or wife gets $50,000 plus half the estate while the children receive everything else.
  • If your spouse is deceased, your children share the estate equally
  • If any of your children predecease you but had children of their own, these children inherit their parent’s share of your estate.
  • If you are single and childless, your parents inherit everything. If your parents are deceased, your siblings and/or their descendants will divide your estate.
  • If you die with no closer relative than a first cousin, your assets go to the state.

New York’s laws of intestacy do not allow stepchildren to inherit, which can be a problem if you married someone whose children you are fond of and want to provide for. Another common issue is support for elderly parents: if your parents rely on you financially and there is no will to provide for their future care, they will receive nothing unless you were unmarried and had no children at the time of your death.

What About Your Children?

Some married individuals regard a will as unnecessary because they presume that if something happens to them, their spouse will continue to care for the children. While this will normally be the case, what happens if both of you die without a will at the same time? The court will likely have to appoint a guardian for the children, and their choice might not be what you intended.

Passing away without a will can create problems for your estate and your loved ones. Taking the time to plan now can spare the latter a lot of time, money, and heartache later.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

The estate planning attorneys at Rosen Law, LLC will help you draft a will that protects your loved ones from unnecessary problems, stress, and disputes in the event that you pass away unexpectedly. We will also work with you to identify your unique needs and the best way to meet your estate planning goals. For more information, please call (516) 437-3400 today.

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Our attorneys, admitted to practice law in New York, Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, practice within a wide range of legal areas including business and real estate litigation, Fair Labor Standards Act litigation, complex real estate transactions, preparation of condominium offering plans, business sale and purchase transactions, construction law and litigation, New York City tax abatements, estate planning, probate and probate litigation and much more.

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