Intestate is a term which refers to the New York State rules which dictate who receives a person's assets when he or she dies without making a valid Will. Essentially, these laws divide the decedent's property according to well-established rules of inheritance based on blood relations, adoption, or marriage. It does not matter what a person may have wished for or promised while alive. If there is no valid Will, then the strict rules of intestacy determine who receives the decedent's property.
In New York State "distributees" are the persons who receive the decedent's estate in intestacy. The order of priority generally is a spouse and children, parents and brothers and sisters. However, these rules can be very complex and proof of kinship can be difficult. Intestate rules are important.
Reference should be made to the Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 4-1.1 entitled "Descent and distribution of a decedent's estate." This statute provides the priority list for estate inheritance. One interesting part of the law is that where a decedent is survived by a spouse and children, the spouse receives the sum of fifty thousand dollars along with one-half of the balance of the estate. The New York State estate laws tend to protect a surviving spouse.
Of course, if a person wants to control who will inherit his or her estate they need to formulate and execute an estate plan.
When a person decides to put into place a plan for an estate, the documents that are typically prepared include a Last Will and Testament, Health Care Proxy and Living Will. Also, consideration should be given to preparing a Durable Power of Attorney and Living Trust. This trust is also known as a Grantor Trust. A person need to devote a considerable amount of time and attention to developing the documents that accurately and effectively reflect his intentions for health care and property disposition.
By creating documents for asset inheritance a person can avoid intestacy. Instead, the person's Will is filed with the Surrogate's Court for probate. The probate proceeding provides the method by which a Court validates the Will.
Regardless of the size of an estate, individuals and their families benefit greatly from having a well-prepared estate plan consisting of documents such as a Last Will, Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney and Living Will.
I have many years of experience working with and advising clients both with respect to issues regarding intestacy, the administration of estates and the creation and implementation of estate plans that express the client's personal desires regarding the disposition and protection of assets.
If you need help in these areas, come in to my office for a free consultation to discuss your options. To contact my office located in Manhattan call (212) 355-2575 or e-mail