If you fail to make a Last Will and Testament prior to your death, the laws of New York say that you died intestate. What this means is that New York law will determine not only your heirs, but also how much each of them inherits from you.

The New York State Unified Court System gives the following examples of which of your relatives will inherit your probate estate in the following common scenarios:

  • If your spouse survives you and you have no surviving children, (s)he will inherit everything.
  • If your spouse and children survive you, (s)he will inherit the first $50,000 of your probate estate plus half of the balance; your children will inherit the remaining half in equal portions.
  • If you have no surviving spouse, but have surviving children, they will inherit everything in equal shares.
  • If you have no surviving spouse or children, but have surviving parents, they will inherit everything in equal shares.
  • If you have no surviving spouse, children or parents, but have surviving siblings, they will inherit everything in equal shares.

Escheat

In all likelihood, you have never run across the word escheat before. What it means is that if you die intestate with no surviving relatives at all, then your entire estate goes to the State of New York.

Your Last Will and Testament

Only by making a Last Will and Testament can you ensure that your estate passes the way you want it to pass to the heirs you choose. This becomes even more important if you wish to leave a bequest to your alma mater, your favorite charity, your church, etc.