When a person dies, their assets get distributed among the beneficiaries named in their will. When a person dies without a will, they have died intestate.
When a person dies intestate, the law determines how their estate gets distributed. In the state of New York, the law dictates that all property goes to living relatives.
What was their family situation?
If the deceased had a spouse but did not have any children, the spouse inherits the entire estate. If the deceased had a spouse and children, the spouse inherits the first $50,000 and half of the remainder of the estate. The remaining balance then goes to the children. If there were children but the deceased was not married, the children split the estate. If the deceased leaves behind no spouse or children, the estate goes to the parents. If there are no parents, spouse or children, the estate goes to the siblings or the siblings’ children if a sibling has died before the deceased. If a person dies intestate and leaves behind no living relatives, the estate goes to the state of New York.
What about adopted children, foster children and stepchildren?
Adopted children and biological children inherit the same. If you wish for any child who is not a biological heir or who is not legally adopted to inherit, you must clearly state your intentions in a will. Additionally, paternity must be legally established for children of deceased males to inherit if they were born outside of marriage.
If you wish for people outside of your family to inherit your property after you die, you must state this in a will. When you create an estate plan, you can assure that your wishes and preferences are carried out.