Would you be surprised to learn that the State of New York has over $18 billion in unclaimed funds? That is certainly a staggering number. Some of that money comes from unclaimed inheritances. Whether you are working on your own estate plan or you have reason to believe that you might be entitled to some money, it helps to know what happens to assets that go unclaimed after a death. Toward that end, the Long Island estate planning attorneys at Eghrari Wealth Training Firm explain what happens to an unclaimed inheritance in New York.
How Can an Inheritance Go Unclaimed If the Decedent Left a Will or Trust?
In a typical estate plan, a Last Will and Testament and/or a trust agreement serves as the primary method of distributing estate assets after the death of the owner. When a Will is used, and that document is properly drafted, it dictates who inherits estate assets and which assets or in what proportion each beneficiary inherits. A Will should also anticipate a beneficiary predeceasing the Testator (creator of the Will) by naming a successor beneficiary or by stating that assets are to be distributed “per stirpes” or “per capita.” These legal terms indicate whether a deceased beneficiary’s share of an estate should be passed down to his/her legal heirs or be shared by other original beneficiaries. The same basic concept applies to assets inherited through a trust agreement.
Ideally, all estate assets are distributed using the terms of the Will or trust; however, it is possible for assets to be left unclaimed in a Will or trust. If estate assets are left out of a Will (or trust) entirely, those assets become part of the decedent’s intestate estate. In that case, the New York intestate succession rules apply and dictate who receives the assets.
Assets can end up unclaimed, however, when a diligent search for the intended beneficiary or heir fails to locate them. For example, imagine that a decedent’s Will left half of his estate to his brother per stirpes, meaning that if his brother predeceases him the inheritance passes down to the brother’s children. The brother dies first and leaves behind three children. After a diligent search, the Executor of the estate cannot locate one of the brother’s children. That leaves one-third of the inheritance unclaimed. When a decedent leaves behind an intestate estate, the Personal Representative of the estate will use the New York intestate succession laws to try and locate the legal heirs, starting with a spouse and children and moving on to siblings, parents, and more distant relatives. If no legal heirs can be identified and/or located, the inheritance goes unclaimed.
How Can I Find Out about an Unclaimed Inheritance in New York?
Like all states, New York has very clear laws and procedures relating to unclaimed funds and assets from all sources. The holder of unclaimed or abandoned property or funds is required to report to the New York State Comptroller’s Office and transfer the assets to that office after the applicable statutory time has expired. Once transferred to the State of New York, an unclaimed inheritance will be available for collection by anyone who has a legal right to collect the funds. You can search the New York State Comptroller’s website to find out if you are entitled to an unclaimed inheritance. If there is an unclaimed inheritance waiting for you, follow the instructions on the website to submit the documentation required to collect the funds.
Do You Have Questions about an Unclaimed Inheritance in New York?
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have questions about an unclaimed inheritance in New York, contact the Long Island estate planning attorneys at Eghrari Wealth Training Firm by calling us at 631-265-0599 to schedule your appointment.