There are many important reasons why a person should have a will, but there is one reason in particular that stands out – the laws of intestacy. If a person does not execute a will when he or she is alive, or if a will was executed but was found by a court after the person's death to be invalid for any reason, then that person’s estate will be distributed pursuant to the laws of intestacy.
The New York Estate, Powers, and Trusts Law (the EPTL), Article Four, Section 4-1.1 sets forth intestate distribution:
(1) If survived by a spouse and issue (“issue” are descendants in any degree from a common ancestor), then $50,000 plus one half of the residue goes to the surviving spouse, and the balance of the estate goes to the issue by representation.
(2) If survived by a spouse and no issue, then the whole goes to the spouse.
(3) If survived by the issue and no spouse, then the whole goes to the issue by representation.
(4) If survived by one or both parents, and no spouse and no issue, then the whole goes to the surviving parent or parents.
(5) If survived by the issue of parents (includes siblings), and no spouse, issue or parent, then the whole goes to the issue of the parents by representation.
The EPTL also sets forth intestate distribution if survived by grandparents and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, which is in Article Four as well.
Salvatore R. Marino, Esq.