Despite the advisability, most adults in New York do not have a will or any other estate plan in place. If you are one of them, you may believe that you do not need one because your children will automatically inherit from you upon your death even if you die intestate, i.e., without a will.
In some cases, this is true, but it is not necessarily a given in every situation. According to the New York State Unified Court System, only the children with whom you have a legal parent-child relationship stand to inherit from you if you die intestate. Because adoption is a legal arrangement, this applies to adopted children as well as the biological children of you and your spouse. Generally speaking, it also applies to any biological children whose births occur following your death.
A non-marital child is one born outside of marriage. If you are the father of a non-marital child, he or she can only inherit if you have legally established paternity. Similarly, unless you adopt your stepchildren or foster children, there is no legal relationship between you and them. This means that they will not inherit if you die intestate.
If you have grandchildren, you cannot necessarily count on them inheriting from you if you die intestate. Grandchildren inherit from an intestate grandparent only when the decedent’s child, who is also the grandchild’s parent, has already died.
Note that these rules apply only if you die intestate. If you make out a will, you can decide exactly whom you want to inherit from you, and how much, regardless of the legal relationship between you.
The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.