If you did not have a last will or any other estate planning documents expressing your wishes regarding asset transfers, what would happen to your property? This is a good question, and the answer is a multifaceted one.
Basically, it all depends on the circumstances. Property that is in your direct, sole personal possession at the time of your death would be subject to the probate process.
The condition that results from a total lack of planning is called intestacy. The probate court would sort things out using the intestate succession laws of the state of New York if you died without a last will or any other estate planning documents.
If you died intestate in New York and you had children still living but no surviving spouse, your children would inherit the entirety of your probate property. If you did not have a surviving spouse or descendents, your parents would inherit all of your personal property if there was a living parent.
Your siblings would inherit all of your probate property if you had no spouse, descendents, or parents still living.
The state could absorb your probate assets under escheat laws if you passed away without any estate planning documents and you had no living relatives.
A man named Roman Blum died in 2012, and his estate was valued at some $40 million. He didn’t have any estate planning documents, and no living relatives have been found.
If no one is located within three years of his passing, the state would in fact assume ownership of this $40 million fortune.
Transfers Outside of Probate
Some types of asset transfers are not subject to the probate process. If you have an insurance policy on your life, the company would pay the beneficiary directly outside of probate, even if you did not have a last will.
You can add a beneficiary when you open a bank or a brokerage account. These accounts are called payable on death or transfer on death accounts.
The beneficiary would assume ownership of anything that is left in the account after your passing whether you had a last will or not, and the probate process would not enter the picture.
Joint tenancy can also facilitate a direct transfer outside of probate. A joint tenant is a co-owner of property.
There is no reason to go through life without an estate plan as you cross your fingers and hope for the best. You can be proactive and make sure that your assets are distributed in exact accordance with your wishes.
If you are ready to take action, our firm can help. We offer free consultations, and you can send us a message through this link to set up an appointment: Long Island NY Estate Planning Attorney.