Handling the aftermath of your parent’s death can take time and determination. You must overcome your grief enough to make funeral plans and deal with the estate left behind. If your loved one planned with a will or trust, they may have dealt with some of that burden before passing away. But what if your parent dies without creating a will?

Intestate succession laws in New York kick in when there are no directions for how to distribute a person’s assets. These rules let a probate judge decide which family members get a share of the inheritance based on their closeness to the deceased. Here is what New York law says about distributing intestate assets:

  • Married with no children – The spouse receives the entire estate of the deceased.
  • Married with children – The spouse gets the first $50,000 of value, then rest is split in half. One half divides equally among the children, and the other goes to the spouse.
  • No spouse with children – The children receive the entire estate in equal shares if the spouse has already passed away or if the deceased never married.
  • No spouse or children, but at least one parent – Parents receive the entirety of the estate if they are the only relative.
  • No spouse, children or parents, but at least one sibling – Siblings are the last in line if the deceased has no one else. Multiple siblings receive an equal share of the estate.

If a person who would have been a beneficiary passes away before the deceased but leaves behind children, that share goes to the person’s descendants per stirpes. Per stirpes means that the descendants split the full share equally.

Who handles intestate succession?

To calculate and handle intestate succession, your parent’s estate will go through a probate court. A judge will determine the value of the assets and find out which of your family members are still alive. The process can take several months, depending on the complexity of your parent’s estate. You may need to seek legal advice if you feel the court makes an unfair ruling when handling your loved one’s assets.

Estates without a plan fall into the probate system

When a parent leaves behind an estate with no distribution plans, the burden falls on the state and the descendants to work out how to divide the assets. By using New York intestate succession laws, the court hopes to split the inheritance consistently and equitably.