If you are like many adults in New York, then it may not be unreasonable to assume that you have not begun the estate planning process. Indeed, studies show that a majority of adults in the state (and throughout the rest of the U.S.) do not have wills.
Your delay in preparing a will may have to do with a fear of offending your potential beneficiaries. If you do not leave a will, state law determines how to divide up your assets. That may be different from what you would choose.
New York’s intestate succession guidelines
Indeed, if you die intestate (without a will), the state determines who gets your assets. For example, according to the New York State law, if you have no children or other descendants, your surviving spouse receives your entire estate. If you do, then your spouse receives the first $50,000 of the estate’s value, and then half of the remaining assets (with the other half going to your descendants). If you leave no spouse behind, then your descendants receive your entire estate.
If you have no spouse and no lineal descendants, then the state’s intestate succession guidelines dictate that your estate passes in the following order:
- To your parents
- To your siblings
- To your maternal and paternal kindred
No allowance for non-relatives
You may notice that these guidelines make no allowance for any non-relatives. This means that if you have friends or colleagues you wish to benefit from your estate, or would like to see a portion of your estate go to your alma mater or a charitable organization, then you must state that in a will.