While it most often happens when a person dies without a will or estate plan, the state may also decide to whom to award assets in other cases as well. Many people do not understand how distribution works under the law and which heirs will get assets. Luckily, New York law has a pretty straightforward system that makes it easy to understand. 

According to the New York State Unified Court System, when needed, the court will determine who receives shares of the estate from the closest family members of the deceased, who the court calls distributees. One thing to note, if you have a child who dies before you any grandchildren you have from that child will take the place of your child in the order of inheritance. So, if your child would receive an inheritance, your grandchildren would then get that inheritance instead. 

If you are single with no children, your parents would be the first distributees. They would receive your full estate after distributions for debt. If your parents are no longer alive, then your siblings would be the distributees and receive your full estate. 

If you have a spouse, your spouse takes priority over everyone else. If you do not have children, then your spouse gets everything, but if you do have children, your spouse will get the first $50,000 of your estate. The court will then split the remaining balance between your spouse and your children. 

If you so not have a spouse but you do have children, then they become the distributees. They will inherit your full estate.