Why you need a will

Why you need a will

What happens if you die without a will in place? The New York State Bar Association has answers.


If you die without a Will

The Court becomes involved. When you have not left a Will, the Court will appoint an administrator to collect and distribute assets. The administrator could be a family member or a public official. Such depends on the circumstances of the estate. Where you leave no Will, New York statutes effectively write a “Will” for you. The statute distributes assets depending on the make up of your family.

These rules, known as the “Distribution Rules of Intestacy,” reflect what the New York State Legislature decided would likely be preferable in most situations. For example, if you are survived by:

  • a spouse and descendants: your spouse takes the first $50,000 and one-half the balance of the property, and your descendants share the rest;
  • a spouse but no descendants: spouse takes all;
  • descendants, no spouse: descendants take all;
  • a parent or parents, no spouse, no descendants: your parent or parents take all;
  • descendants of either parent but none of the closer relatives: the descendants of your parents take all;
  • one or more grandparents or their descendants, but none of the closer relatives: half goes to the maternal side and half to the paternal (but not including second cousins if you have any first cousins on either side); where “descendants” include a mix of generations, living children take a full equal share, and children of a predeceased child then divide equally the combined share of their deceased parent.

A Will determines who will oversee the administration and distribution of your estate assets

You name as the legal representative(s) (“Executor(s)”) of your estate whom you want to administer and distribute your property. An Executor can be a relative, a friend, your lawyer or a bank or trust company that specializes in the handling of estates. The choice of an Executor is yours only if you make a Will.