Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in New York

Im 21 years old, my dad passed away without a will and is married to my stepmother and has 2 other kids under 18. Do i have any inheritance rights?

Asked on 8/14/13, 1:28 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Arnold Nager Arnold H. Nager, Esquire

You do. You are entitled to a share of your dad's estate. Be aware that any joint accounts, life insurance, and jointly owned property are not part of the estate and pass directly to the beneficiary or co-owner.

As of June 2011, if the decedent was married and had children, the surviving spouse receives the initial $50,000 and half of the rest of the estate's assets. The other half is divided equally among the children.

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Answered on 8/14/13, 1:42 pm

Walter LeVine Walter D. LeVine, Esq.

While I agree generally with Arnold, I do so with limitations. What you get depends upon the size of Dad's estate and how his assets are registered. Joint assets (those owned by him and hsi wife) and any assets that have a designated beneficiary, like insurance and retirement plans, are not assets that you could inherit. Here, in simplified form, is the NY law on intestacy (dying without a Will):

The Spouse’s Share in New York

In New York, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living descendants -- children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren. If you don’t, then your spouse inherits the first $50,000 of your intestate property, plus 1/2 of the balance

Example 1: Bill is married to Karen, and they have two grown children. Bill and Karen own a large bank account in joint tenancy, and Bill took out a life insurance policy naming Karen as the beneficiary. When Bill dies, Karen receives the life insurance policy proceeds and inherits the bank account outright -- those things are not intestate property. Bill also owns $350,000 worth of other property that would have passed under a will. Karen inherits $200,000 worth of that property -- that is, $50,000 plus $150,000 worth of the balance. The two children split the remaining $150,000.

Example 2: Barrett is married to Jed and also has a 12-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Barrett owns a house in joint tenancy with Jed, plus $200,000 worth of additional, separate property that would have passed under a will if Barrett had made one. When Barrett dies, Jed inherits the house outright and $125,000 worth of Barrett’s property -- that is, $50,000 plus $75,000 worth of the balance. Barrett’s daughter inherits the remaining $75,000 share of Barrett’s property.

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Answered on 8/15/13, 12:50 pm

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