The prospect of a person in Queens dying without a will is not all that uncommon. Indeed, according to a 2016 Gallup poll, only 44% of American adults do not have a will. Many may think that they will have plenty of time during their later years to plan out their estates, yet that ignores the fact that many deaths are unanticipated. When one dies without a will, their potential beneficiaries may be left thinking that it is left to them how to determine the distribution of the decedent’s estate. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
When one dies intestate (the legal term for not having a will), state law determines how their estate is to be distributed. Per the website for the New York State Unified Court System, if one who dies intestate leaves behind a spouse, the spouse inherits their entire estate if the decedent had no surviving children or other lineal descendants. If they do leave behind descendants, then the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $50,000 in assets from the estate. After that, the remaining balance is divided equally between them and the children. If the decedent is preceded in death by their spouse, their descendants will divide their estate equally among themselves. Adopted children and children born after the decedent dies are considered descendants. Grandchildren only stand to inherit if their parents are also deceased.
If a person dies without a will and is not survived by a spouse or descendants, their estate goes to their parents. If their parents are also gone, then the estate goes to their siblings (or their siblings’ descendants). No allowances are given to anyone not directly related to a decedent under intestate succession guidelines.