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What is Intestacy? Don’t Let the State Determine Where your Assets Go!

Regardless of whether you know it or not you have a Will – the Will is called Intestate Distribution and is determined by the State Legislature.

When one dies without a Will it is often said he or she died intestate, and their Will enters Intestacy.  I am sure different parts of the country refer to it differently, but in the end it is a State chosen distribution of assets.  Think about it, when did your State ever do anything logically?

When I bring this up to a client or financial planner – they look at me funny, and my response is always the same,  “Did you think all the grieving family members get in front of a judge with a powdered wig and screaming about who dad loved more?”  Once, I say that condesending line, I usually get the “Ahhhh, that makes sense.”

Intestacy distributes assets according to family dynamics, only, and does not take into account your Testamentary Intent, which is only one of the reasons that EVERYONE NEEDS A WILL.  It should be noted that intestacy only distributes assets which would have been controlled by a Will, as such, assets distributed according to contract, deed, or payable upon death – aren’t distributed by intestacy.

New York Intestacy Law

In New York the intestacy law is covered by EPTL 4-1.1 and distributes assets as follows:

  1. Spouse and Kids – First $50,000 to your spouse and then one-half to your spouse and one-half to your children;
  2. Spouse and No Kids – Spouse gets it all
  3. Kids No Spouse – Kids get it all
  4. No Kids, No Spouse – Decedent’s Parents
  5. No Kids, No Spouse, No parents – Your Siblings
  6. No Kids, No Spouse, No Parents, No Siblings – One half to maternal grandparents and one half to paternal grandparents
  7. Then work your way down to aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews.

Your State’s Intestacy Law

I found a cool website that lists every intestacy statute called, My State Will. Each State distributes assets by intestacy differently. So you will have to check out your own State:



  1. A good reminder on the will! Especially the more assets you have. The wife made me write one, and set things up earlier this year. It's pretty cheap, and you just need a notary.



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