What happens if I die without a will in NY?

If you die without a will, the state will handle your estate according to its default rules. This is known as dying “intestate,” meaning there was no will in place upon death. Your estate will be distributed according to these intestate rules. The people or organizations you want to benefit from your estate may be left out.

If you die intestate in New York, these rules apply:

  • If you have a spouse, he or she will inherit everything.
  • If you have children but no spouse, they will inherit everything.
  • If you have parents but no spouse or children, they will inherit everything.
  • If you have no spouse, children, or parents, then your siblings will inherit everything.
  • If you have no spouse or immediate family, your estate will pass to other living relatives.

If you want your estate to go elsewhere, you must have a will in place to make sure that happens. Also, keep in mind that there is more to an estate than simple inheritance. Tax planning, asset protection, trusts, and many other estate planning tools may play important roles in your estate’s distribution.