Some people are not too concerned about estate planning, because they harbor misconceptions, and a Pollyanna viewpoint can also enter the equation. The idea is that the government has a plan if you do not execute a will or trust, and your family members will certainly work things out among themselves in a fair and equitable manner.
This is a nice way of looking at things, but in the real world, things usually don’t automatically fall into place in accordance with your wishes if you do not plan your estate in an effective manner.
If you are married, your spouse is not necessarily going to inherit everything. The condition of dying without an estate plan is called intestacy. When someone without an estate plan has personal property, the property becomes intestate property. The Surrogate’s Court takes over, and things are sorted out in accordance with applicable intestate succession laws.
Final debts would be paid during the probate process, and anything that is left would be distributed by the court using the intestate succession laws of the state of New York. If you have a spouse and descendants still living, your spouse would inherit the first $50,000 of your intestate property. Your spouse and your descendants would split the rest equally.
Most married people have children, so this arrangement may not sit very well with your spouse, especially if your children are not good money managers. Plus, blended family situations can make the situation even more contentious.
We should point out the fact that your spouse would inherit everything under New York intestate succession laws if you did not have any living descendants.
There Are No Easy Answers
As you go through life, you invariably make mistakes, and you learn from them. One lesson that most people learn eventually is the fact that there really are no easy answers. When you fail to act as you keep your head in the sand hoping for the best, negative consequences are usually the result.
Most people know that they should have an estate plan in place, but procrastination is common. You could fail to act because in the back of your mind, you assume that your spouse will inherit everything if you do die before you put an estate plan in place. As you can see from the information that we have passed along in this blog post, that is not necessarily the case.
There is no reason to go through life without an estate plan. If you don’t know where to begin, our firm would be glad to assist you. We offer free case evaluations, and we would be glad to sit down and discuss your unique situation with you in person.
If you are ready to get started, send us a message through this page to set up an appointment: Smithtown NY Estate Planning Lawyers.