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What happens if you die without an estate plan?

You might not think you need an estate plan. Maybe you are uncomfortable thinking about death currently in your life. Maybe you don’t have many assets to give your family after your death. Maybe you simply expect your spouse to get everything. No matter the reason, though, it is important to know what will happen to your estate if you die without a plan.

New York law will determine the division of your property.

While some believe that an estate without a will does not go through probate, this simply is not the case. When a person dies without a will—also called dying intestate—their estate still goes through the probate process, but the property they leave behind is divided according to legal guidelines instead of their written wishes.

Only a few, specific people can inherit without a will in place.

When a person dies without a will, the law also defines who can inherit their property. This includes their spouse and children. If the deceased person passes away without a spouse or children, their parents, siblings or grandchildren may inherit. New York State will inherit all property if they were not survived by any of these relatives.

If you have loved ones that do not fit these descriptions—an unmarried partner, children of a spouse that you do not have a formal legal relationship with, more distant relatives or friends, for example—then they will not be able to inherit any of your possessions.

Protecting your loved ones and your wishes after you are gone can depend on careful estate planning. If you are unsure whether you need an estate plan, speak to an experienced estate planning attorney to explore your options.

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