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Understanding intestate succession

Many in Mount Morris have avoided estate planning; you may be among them. The typical assumption is that many avoid estate planning because it forces them to confront the reality of their own mortality. Yet of you are like many of those that we here at Sciarrino & Sciarrino P.C. have worked with in the past, your reason may be the fear of offending your beneficiaries. The last thing you want is for your estate to drive a wedge between your loved ones. You may think that if you avoid stipulating your desires in a will, your beneficiaries will be free to divide your estate up themselves.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. If you die without a will, your estate is classified as “intestate.” The succession of intestate estates is determined by state law. According to the website for the New York State Unified Court System, if you die without a will and leave behind a spouse (but no children), then your spouse inherits the entirety of your estate (your children would be entitled to your entire estate if the situation was the other way around). If you are survived by both your spouse and your children, then your spouse would inherit the first $50,000 of your estate, with remaining amount then being split equally between them and your kids.

Your parents would inherit your estate of you die intestate and do not leave behind a spouse and kids. If your parents preceded you in death, then your estate would go your siblings. No allowances are made for anyone not directly related to you. If you want such a party to benefit from your estate, you need to state that in a will.

More information on preparing your estate plans can be found throughout our site.