Who will inherit from you if you die without a will? It might not be the people you feel most connected to. Here is the order in New York State. If you don’t have a relative in one category, see the next category down. (for instance, if you don’t have a spouse, your money will go to your kids).
- If you have a spouse and kids, your spouse gets the first $50,000 + half of the remaining estate. Your kids share the other half.
- Spouse – if you have a spouse and no kids, your spouse gets everything.
- Children or grandchildren – if you have kids but no spouse, your kids share everything.
- Brothers and sisters
- Aunts and uncles
The law only recognizes legal relationships, not emotional ties. Thus means that if yours is like many families, the people you share your life with and care the most about might not be the people who will inherit from you when you die. There is no “common-law” marriage in New York. So if you live with a partner you are not married to (of the opposite sex or same sex) they may not inherit from you. No matter how long. You have been together.
This comes up with children, too. If you are raising children who are not your own by birth or by adoption (for instance, step-children or foster children or relatives), they cannot inherit from you unless you have a will, even if you have been supporting them for their whole lives.
On the other side, your property may end up in the hands of a relative you barely know or rarely talk to. The parent who doesn’t like your partner. The cousin you’ve never met. The brother you haven’t spoken to in years.
Does this describe your situation? If so, it might just be time to start working on that will!