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How much does a spouse inherit when their “other half” dies in New York?

On Behalf of | Mar 10, 2023 | Estate Administration & Probate |

What happens to someone’s property when they die depends, at least partially, on the terms of their estate plan. Testators can take control over the legacy they leave when they die by creating a trust or a will that names specific beneficiaries for certain assets.

For the most part, the instructions someone leaves in their estate planning documents determine what happens with their personal property after they die. However, some people die without a will or they leave instructions that actually violate state law. For example, spouses technically have a statutory right of inheritance under New York law, which means they can challenge estate planning documents that do not allocate an appropriate amount of their spouse’s estate directly to them.

What rights does a spouse have when someone dies in New York?

The circumstances determine a spouse’s inheritance right. Whether or not someone has children and the estate planning documents they leave behind when they die will have a profound influence on the rights of their spouse.

If someone dies without a will, usually spouses and children have the most protections under intestate succession laws. If someone dies without a will and does not have children, then their spouse theoretically inherits everything from their estate.

If someone dies with a will but does not leave much of their property to their spouse, their spouse can challenge their estate plan in probate court. The courts can award someone a specific amount of estate assets even if the will or trust documents provide other guidance for that property.

The elective share of a New York estate will be either $50,000 or one-third of the assets in the estate. If someone dies with a will that gives everything to children, grandchildren or charity, the spouse denied their statutory right of inheritance could challenge the will in probate court.

Those who are trying to plan their estate for the protection of loved ones and those who are concerned about their inheritance rights when a family member dies can benefit from learning about statutory inheritance rules in New York. Pushing for what is fair can sometimes lead to litigation during the estate administration process, and sometimes, that course of action is appropriate given the circumstances in question.