If you die without a will, you estate devolves under the rules of intestacy, which are pretty much the same from state to state, sometimes with minor differences. If any part of a New York decedent's estate is not effectively disposed of by will, the intestate share will be distributed in the following order and manner:
1. Surviving spouse. A surviving spouse is generally first in line to get any assets from the intestate estate. However, the amount a surviving spouse is entitled to varies as follows:
* A surviving spouse is entitled to the entire intestate estate if the decedent is not survived by issue (i.e., descendants like children and grandchildren).
* If the decedent is survived by issue, a surviving spouse gets the first $50,000, plus one-half of the remaining property in the intestate estate.
2. Heirs other than surviving spouse. Any part of the intestate estate not passing to the surviving spouse as indicated above, or the entire intestate estate if there is no surviving spouse, passes as follows to:
1. Decedent's issue, taking by representation
2. Decedent's parent or parents equally.
3. Issue of decedent's parents, taking by representation.
4. If none of the above relatives are available, but the decedent is survived by one or more grandparents or immediate issue of grandparents (i.e., decedent's aunts and uncles), half of the estate passes to the paternal grandparents if both survive, or to the surviving paternal grandparent or to the issue of the paternal grandparents (taking by representation) if both are deceased. The other half passes to the maternal relatives in the same manner. If there is no surviving grandparent or issue of grandparent on either the paternal or maternal side, the entire estate passes to the relatives on the other side in the same manner as the half portion would. For purposes of this category, issue of grandchildren does not include issue more remote than grandchildren of such grandparents.
5. Great-grandchildren of decedent's grandparents, split one-half to the great-grandchildren of the paternal grandparents side and one-half to the great-grandchildren of the maternal grandparents side, with per capita distributions to each side. If there are no great-grandchildren of grandparents on one side, the whole amount goes to the other half (and still split per capita).
3. State of New York. If there is no taker under any of the above provisions, the intestate estate passes (escheats) to the state of New York.
* Relatives of the half blood inherit the same share they would inherit if they were of the whole blood.
* For purposes of eligibility, relatives conceived before a decedent's death, but born thereafter, inherit as if they were born during the decedent's lifetime.
* A parent that has refused to support or has otherwise abandoned his or her minor child (under age 21) cannot inherit from that child via intestate succession unless the parent resumes and continues their parental relationship up to the child's death. An exception does exist, however, where the parent is not at fault due to a fraudulent or deceptive adoption that results in the child being neglected.
* New York's intestate succession laws, as well as other related laws, can be found in Chapter 17-B of the New York State Consolidated Laws.
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