What Happens if I Die Without a Will in New York?
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What Happens if I Die Without a Will in New York?

What are the consequences of dying without a Will in New York? Will my family lose everything if I don't have an Estate Plan? Keep reading to find out the potential consequences of dying without a Will and how you can protect your loved ones!

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A Will, also known as a Last Will and Testament, is a legal document that outlines a person's final wishes regarding the distribution of their assets and the handling of their affairs after their death. It serves as a written record of how the individual wants their property, possessions, and responsibilities to be managed and allocated among their chosen beneficiaries. Many people are reluctant to write formal Wills. However, there are some downsides to passing away without a Will in New York state. In this article, we’ll go through what it means to die without a Will in New York and explain how FastWill can help you avoid that mistake.

What Does it Mean to Die “Intestate” In New York?

When a person dies without a Will, it's called “dying intestate.” In New York, a person who dies intestate loses control over how their property will be distributed to their heirs. The court will have to divide their property based on the dictates of state law. You can find this law in EPTL 4-1.1, which is the part of the law that covers the distribution of a person's estate. The intestacy law follows a hierarchy that says who gets what share of the estate. 

Who Inherits in New York When Someone Dies Without a Will?

Let’s go through a few basic scenarios if someone in New York passes away without a Will. 

  • Children but no spouse:  If you have children but aren’t married when you die, the children receive the entire estate, which is divided equally among them. 

  • Spouse with no children: If you die with a spouse but without children, the spouse gets everything. 

  • Spouse and children: If you die with a spouse and with children, New York law dictates that the spouse receives the first $50,000 and then half the balance of the estate. The children receive whatever is left over. 

  • Single with no children: If you are single and don’t have kids, your next living relatives, such as your parents, will inherit. But beware nothing under the law would stop your long-lost cousin from inheriting if you don’t have any other family.  

  • No living relatives: If there is no living family, the state of New York will get your estate. The state will never simply give your estate to someone like your best friend. If that’s something you want to happen, you need a Will.

Thankfully, you can draft a valid New York State Will one in just minutes by using FastWill.

What Assets Are Distributed If You Pass Away Without a Will in New York?

If you die without a valid Will in New York, most of your possessions will be distributed by the probate court. These assets include: 

  • Real estate that you own in your name.

  • Vehicles, including boats, recreational vehicles, and planes.

  • Bank accounts.

  • Personal property, such as family heirlooms, furniture, and memorabilia. 

New York Assets That Are Not Impacted by Intestate Succession

Not all assets are transferred through the probate court. If you own any of the following assets in New York, they will be transferred to beneficiaries that you identified when you filled out the documentation: 

  • Assets that have been transferred to a living trust.

  • Payable-on-death checking accounts.

  • Property and assets that are jointly owned with someone else as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or tenants by the entirety. 

  • Life insurance proceeds are designated to a named beneficiary.

  • Funds within IRAs, 401(k)s, or other retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries.

These assets will pass to the named beneficiary or surviving co-owner, regardless of whether you have a Will.

Why is Probate Slower in New York If You Die Intestate?

Your estate must go through probate in New York even if you have a Will, so does it really matter if you have a Will? Yes, it matters because when you have a Will, the process is expedited. Without a Will, the probate court - which is called a Surrogate's Court in New York - has to go through several extra steps to probate your estate. This includes appointing an estate administrator to manage your estate. This person plays a similar role as an executor. Although the court can appoint someone who wants to act in this role, first, the court will need to be satisfied that the person is eligible and qualified. You can circumvent this process by drafting a valid New York Will that formally names the executor of your choosing.

You Need a Residuary Clause in New York

In some situations, your Will might be invalidated because you left out important information. For example, if you don't have a residuary clause in your Will, then that property will be treated as if you died intestate. According to NerdWallet, “A residuary estate is the portion of a person’s assets that are left over after paying off their estate’s debts, taxes and expenses and after distributing any specific gifts of property or money.” To make sure your New York Will is properly drafted, FastWill works with real lawyers who are familiar with all of the clauses required under the law.

How to Make a Legal Will in New York

You can avoid these complications by making an estate plan that includes a Will. You don't need to hire an attorney and wait months for a final document. FastWill can help you make a New York Will. Our process relies on New York attorneys and AI to help you make a Will that is just right for your circumstances. 

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