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New York Estate Planning

Death is never a pleasant topic for discussion but it's a necessary one when planning for your family's future. By planning the distribution of your estate ahead of time, you can save your family a lot of legal and emotional stress.

There are many tools to help you with estate planning in New York. Whether you live in New York City, Buffalo or Syracuse, you have access to legal estate planning resources like wills, living trusts, advance directives and more. Using LawInfo's New York estate planning articles, you can learn about the legal ins and outs of securing your family's future and connect with a qualified local attorney.

New York Wills and Probate

A Last Will and Testament is a legal document in which you can name beneficiaries who would receive specific portions of your estate when you die. However, certain assets that are already promised to beneficiaries in other legal contracts like life insurance policies or living trusts cannot be included in your will.

In New York, your estate can be distributed to your beneficiaries in one of three ways according to its size and whether you made a will:

  • Administration—If you didn't make a will before you died, your estate will be distributed through administration. This process doesn't require oversight from the New York Surrogate's Court beyond appointing a distributee who will collect and distribute the decedent's assets according to state law.
  • Probate—If your estate's personal property (not real property) value is more than $30,000 and you have a will, your estate must be distributed through probate. This process involves the Surrogate's Court validating the authenticity of the will, appointing the executor named in the will to carry out the decedent's wishes and overseeing the entire process.
  • Small Estate—If your estate's personal property value is less than $30,000, it is considered a small estate and is processed through voluntary administration regardless of whether you have a will. The process for distributing your small estate is similar to the administration process except that the distributee is called the voluntary administrator. An executor named in your will shall be appointed as the voluntary administrator of your estate.

New York Intestate Laws

Who will inherit your estate when you die if you don't have a will? If you die without a will, your case is referred to as intestacy. The matter of inheritance in intestate cases is governed by New York state law.

Only family members are qualified to receive intestate assets—friends, charities and the State of New York cannot receive intestate assets. If you die intestate, your estate will, in order of living succession, be inherited by:

  1. Your spouse and/or children.
    • If your spouse and children both succeed you, your spouse will receive $50,000 plus half of your estate while your children receive the balance of the estate.
    • If just your spouse or just your children succeed you, they will receive your entire estate.
  2. Your parents.
  3. Your parents' children (your siblings).
  4. Your grandparents and their children.
    • If your grandparents and their children both succeed you, your grandparents will receive half of your estate and their children will receive the other half, divided accordingly.
    • If just your grandparents or just their children succeed you, they will receive your entire estate.
  5. The great-grandchildren of your grandparents.
    • Your estate will be divided into halves between the grandchildren of your maternal and paternal grandparents.
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