Died Intestate (Without a Will). Now What?
In New York, if a relative has died intestate, it means they have died without a Will. Every state has laws that control who inherits property if no will exists. In New York, the law that controls who inherits a Decedent’s property in the absence of a Will can be found in EPTL 4-1.1.
Here is a quick chart of what EPTL 4-1.1 provides:
|If the Decedent died intestate and is survived by…||Then the following inherit|
|a spouse and no children||the spouse gets everything. He or she inherits all|
|children but no spouse||children inherit everything|
|spouse and children||the spouse gets the first $50,000 thousand dollars. The spouse also gets one-half of what is left. The children split the rest.|
|parents but no spouse and no children||the parents inherit everything|
|siblings (brothers or sisters) but no spouse, children, or parents||the siblings inherit everything|
Note that when Decedent has a child who has children of their own and that child dies before the Decedent, then that child’s children will inherit that child’s share. You can change this result in a Will.
Who is Eligible to Petition to become an Administrator of an Estate of a Person who Died Intestate?
SCPA 1001 sets forth a priority list of who is able to receive Letters of Administration when a person died intestate. The Surrogate’s court prefers that the “closest distributee” or closest family member petition to become administrator of an estate. Specifically, SPCA 1001 provides the following order for of priority
- any other individual who is a distributee and who is eligible and can qualify, preference being given to the person entitled to the largest share in the estate, (except in the case of cousins, in which case letters go tot he public administrator)
If a relative with priority to administer the estate declines to petition, then that relative should sign a renunciation so that the next closest relative can petition. Renunciation does not mean that the person is giving up their intestate share of the Decedent’s estate assets. It only means giving up the right to serve as an Administrator.
How do I Become Appointed Administrator when My Relative Died Intestate?
Click here for a video of how to become Administrator of an estate for somebody who died intestate. Click here for a step-by-step guide of how to become Administrator when somebody died intestate. If you prefer, you may obtain the assistance of an Estate Administration Attorney to help you obtain Letters of Administration so you can then take care of your parent’s estate.
What is the role of an Administrator of an Estate?
The Administrator marshals assets, pays bills, negotiates claims, files taxes, and distributes the money. Click here for a detailed explanation.
What Should I do After I have Become Appointed Administrator?
Here is a checklist of what you should do after being appointed Administrator of an Estate
What Assets Pass by Intestacy?
Assets that do not have a beneficiary designation or do not otherwise pass by operation of law pass by the rules of intestacy. Typically, these are assets that you hold in your own name. Here are some examples:
- Property that is not held jointly with another
- Property that does not have a beneficiary designation
- Property that does not have a TOD designation
- Property that does not have a POD designation
- Your checking account.
- Your jewelry.
- Your tangible personal property, like silverware or a car
How can I Prevent Dying Intestate?
If you want to override the default rules, then you can:
For more information, please contact Guardianship, probate and estate planning attorney Regina Kiperman:
Or visit her at her office:
80 Maiden Lane
New York, NY 10038
This post is made available by the lawyer for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the lawyer. The post should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.