If You Pass Away Without a Will
If you are to die without taking the time to create a Will, there are procedures in place to handle your estate. Without a Will, your entire estate and all of your assets will enter intestacy. Intestacy is a legal process by which all of your assets are evaluated and distributed to the next of kin, as determined by the state. Intestacy law follows a specific path of checking for next of kin. This path can differ state-by-state, as well. For the purposes of this article, we will be looking at New York State Intestacy laws (EPTL 4-1.1).
Your Spouse and Children
If you pass away while you are married without children, under the current New York state laws, your spouse will inherit everything. If you are married with children, then the spouse will receive the first $50,000 in assets, and then the rest will be split evenly amongst your children and your partner. Adopted children will inherit the same value of assets as any biological offspring. Any illegitimate children may claim a share if proof of paternity/maternity is shown to be valid. If any of your children have passed, but they have children of their own; those grandchildren may claim a right to your assets in their parent’s place.
Intestacy Laws For Single People
If you do not have a spouse, your assets will go to your parents, unless you have children. If you do not have children, and your parents have passed, your assets will move to your next of kin as determined by the state. This usually includes siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins.
Your Dependent Children and Pets
If you have dependent children or pets, you cannot control to whom they are sent without a Will. In order to place your children and/or pets under the care of someone who will truly care for them, you will need one. Generally, dependents will be moved to the next of kin (usually a parent or grandparent). But it is up to the state to decide. This choice may not reflect your wishes.
Do Not Rely on Intestacy
Overall, you should never rely on intestacy laws. You should get a Will drafted as soon as humanly possible. Without a Will, your loved ones may start legal battles over assets, often resulting in more losses due to fees, than gains. Lawsuits amongst families can tear them apart. While a Will does not guarantee that your assets will not enter Probate court, it does reduce that risk. The best way to reduce this risk is to draft a Will. Then, be open and honest with your loved ones about your wishes while you are still alive. This way, they can address concerns and work with you to make decisions that benefit the whole family as you see fit. If you foresee additional complications, talk with your attorney about implementing No-Contest clauses in the Will.
Matthew Funeral Home does not provide legal or financial advice via articles. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for legal or financial advice. Consult with a professional estate-planning attorney for more information.
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