Inheritance Laws and Your Rights: Things You Need to Know

inheritance lawsInheritance laws are what determine the rights of survivors and how they will inherit a decedent’s property. Every state has their own set of inheritance laws and these laws are rather complex. Therefore, it is in your best interest to hire an estate lawyer that can assist you with your state’s laws to ensure your rights are protected.

Understanding the Inheritance Hierarchy Without a Will

If a person dies without a will, it is considered an “intestate” situation. The state of New York will then distribute property in that estate according to statutory schemes of succession, known as the hierarchy of succession. The goal of these laws is to distribute assets for the estate in a way which the decedent most likely would have distributed them themselves since there is no will to determine otherwise.

Spouse and Children

If the deceased has no surviving children, but does have a surviving spouse, all assets from the estate would then pass to the surviving spouse. The estate would, however, be distributed differently if the deceased left a spouse and children. The spouse is entitled by law to $50,000 and half of the remaining property. Then, children would be distributed equally based on what is left and how many children there are to distribute assets to. All children are included within the equal distribution – including those that were adopted or those not born to the surviving spouse (step-children).

Parents and Siblings

If the deceased dies with no surviving spouse or children of record, but they do have surviving parents, then the property would be given to the parents. If the deceased has no surviving parents, the next in line of the hierarchy would be surviving siblings. If there are multiple siblings, the assets would be distributed equally among all siblings. If one sibling has passed, but they have surviving children, their children would then have the sibling’s share distributed equally among them.

Other Relatives by Marriage or Blood

In some cases, a deceased individual may have no other qualifying relatives except for their distant ones. These relatives could receive a portion of the estate if there are no siblings, parents, children or spouses left. If the deceased has grandparents, the estate would then be divided amongst the grandparents (maternal and paternal).

Limitations to the Hierarchy

The estate will escheat or revert back to the state if there are no surviving heirs of the estate. New York law will look as far as great grandchildren before determining that there is no one eligible to inherit the deceased’s estate.

The Importance of Having a Will – Contact a NY Estate Planning Attorney

While you may think the state’s hierarchy will protect those that you love, your estate could be inherited by a family member that you never intended to inherit your assets. This is why it is imperative that you hire an estate planning attorney to assist you with your will and possibly setting up a trust. By having a will, you can prevent having the state determine where your estate will be distributed and ensure your loved ones are properly cared for. Contact the Law Offices of Andrew M. Lamkin, P.C. today regarding your will. Schedule a free consultation now at 516-605-0625 or fill out an online contact form with your questions.

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