Understanding New York Estate Law When One Passes Intestate

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by:  Tehila Mörtl


As we continue in our series on elder law, today I thought we would discuss the meaning of Intestate and what that entails in Estate Law in New York. First though, it would be wise to ensure everyone understands what is included in an estate.  To be specific, an estate consists of all one’s assets including cash, financial accounts and holdings, real estate, home and personal belongings.  The total value of all those items make up and are subject to laws governing “intestacy rules”.

In regards to Estate Law, when one dies without having a Last Will & Testament in place appointing a fiduciary for their estate is known as Intestate Administration.  The result is an Administrator, also known as Executor, will be appointed by the courts if their assets are valued at a specific amount.  For example, in New York, if one passes intestate, the law states that an administrator must be appointed if the total value of their assets equals $30,000 or greater. 

Further, the “intestacy rules” govern that the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $50,000 in assets.  The remaining estate will then be divided by half between the spouse and children.  Should a child have passed but left a grandchild, they would then be entitled to their parents share and so on. 

The appointment of an administrator is made according to the guidelines set for by the law, in order of preference:

  • Spouse

  • Children

  • Grandchildren

  • Parent

  • Sibling

Following jurisdiction the court will dispense Letters of Administration, naming the executor which is also known as administrator, of the estate.  This individual will then be responsible for collecting all assets, filing and paying income and estate taxes and ensuring creditors are paid.  Once these tasks are completed the executor will then make distributions in accordance with state laws.  In New York State under “intestate succession” laws, assets are distributed to closest living relatives.  Please note, the assets included are only those in the decedent’s name alone and not joint - accounts, real estate, etc. 

Examples of assets which are not covered under the “intestate succession” laws but are distributed to the beneficiary(s) you have named, include:

  • Jointly owned property be it real estate or otherwise

  • Property which has been transferred to a living trust

  • IRA, 401(k), retirement, etc. funds

  • Life insurance

As estate law includes far more than we could review in-depth here, please allow me to share a few of the areas included that need consideration:

  • Estate planning and administration

  • Naming of Executor and Successor Executor

  • Appointing Trustee(s)

  • Bequests of personal property, financial contribution to person(s) and/or charitable organization(s)

  • Providing for a loved one who is unable to care for themselves

  • Planning for Death Taxes

  • Executor fees

  • Probate

Thank you for visiting Advise & Protect Senior Care Consultants and joining in our discussion on Estate Law in New York.  Please check back as we continue exploring other elder law topics including but not limited to wills, trusts, elder and nursing home abuse, etc.  Meanwhile, please remember that many of our services are offered FREE of charge so, should you have questions, we encourage you to give us a call at 646-820-9202 and speak with one of our Senior Care Consultants. They will be able to answer any questions you might have to begin the process. 


Should you have an experience in elder law that will be of assistance to our other readers and would like to share, please contact us directly.


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