If you die without a valid will while residing in the State of New York, you are said to have died "intestate." In order to determine who will receive your property if you die intestate, the State of New York has established a number of laws (known as "intestacy laws" or "laws of intestate succession.") The primary statutes comprising these intestacy laws, or laws of intestate succession, are set forth below. For a more complete list, see New York Intestacy Laws | Intestate Succession statutes.
Descent and distribution of a decedent's estate
The property of a decedent not disposed of by will shall be distributed as provided in this section. In computing said distribution, debts, administration expenses and reasonable funeral expenses shall be deducted but all estate taxes shall be disregarded, except that nothing contained herein relieves a distributee from contributing to all such taxes the amounts apportioned against him or her under 2-1.8.
Distribution shall then be as follows:
(a) If a decedent is survived by:
(1) A spouse and issue, fifty thousand dollars and one-half of the residue to the spouse, and the balance thereof to the issue by representation.
(2) A spouse and no issue, the whole to the spouse.
(3) Issue and no spouse, the whole to the issue, by representation.
(4) One or both parents, and no spouse and no issue, the whole to the surviving parent or parents.
(5) Issue of parents, and no spouse, issue or parent, the whole to the issue of the parents, by representation.
(6) One or more grandparents or the issue of grandparents (as hereinafter defined), and no spouse, issue, parent or issue of parents, one-half to the surviving paternal grandparent or grandparents, or if neither of them survives the decedent, to their issue, by representation, and the other one-half to the surviving maternal grandparent or grandparents, or if neither of them survives the decedent, to their issue, by representation; provided that if the decedent was not survived by a grandparent or grandparents on one side or by the issue of such grandparents, the whole to the surviving grandparent or grandparents on the other side, or if neither of them survives the decedent, to their issue, by representation, in the same manner as the one-half. For the purposes of this subparagraph, issue of grandparents shall not include issue more remote than grandchildren of such grandparents.
(7) Great-grandchildren of grandparents, and no spouse, issue, parent, issue of parents, grandparent, children of grandparents or grandchildren of grandparents, one-half to the great-grandchildren of the paternal grandparents, per capita, and the other one-half to the great-grandchildren of the maternal grandparents, per capita; provided that if the decedent was not survived by great-grandchildren of grandparents on one side, the whole to the great-grandchildren of grandparents on the other side, in the same manner as the one-half.
(b) For all purposes of this section, decedent's relatives of the half blood shall be treated as if they were relatives of the whole blood.
(c) Distributees of the decedent, conceived before his or her death but born alive thereafter, take as if they were born in his or her lifetime.
(d) The right of an adopted child to take a distributive share and the right of succession to the estate of an adopted child continue as provided in the domestic relations law.
(e) A distributive share passing to a surviving spouse under this section is in lieu of any right of dower to which such spouse may be entitled.
Inheritance by non-marital children
(a) For the purposes of this article:
(1) A non-marital child is the legitimate child of his mother so that he and his issue inherit from his mother and from his maternal kindred.
(2) A non-marital child is the legitimate child of his father so that he and his issue inherit from his father and his paternal kindred if:
(A) a court of competent jurisdiction has, during the lifetime of the father, made an order of filiation declaring paternity or the mother and father of the child have executed an acknowledgment of paternity pursuant to section four thousand one hundred thirty-five-b of the public health law, which has been filed with the registrar of the district in which the birth certificate has been filed or;
(B) the father of the child has signed an instrument acknowledging paternity, provided that
(i) such instrument is acknowledged or executed or proved in the form required to entitle a deed to be recorded in the presence of one or more witnesses and acknowledged by such witness or witnesses, in either case, before a notary public or other officer authorized to take proof of deeds and
(ii) such instrument is filed within sixty days from the making thereof with the putative father registry established by the state department of social services pursuant to section three hundred seventy-two-c of the social services law, as added by chapter six hundred sixty-five of the laws of nineteen hundred seventy-six and
(iii) the department of social services shall, within seven days of the filing of the instrument, send written notice by registered mail to the mother and other legal guardian of such child, notifying them that an acknowledgment of paternity instrument acknowledged or executed by such father has been duly filed or;
(C) paternity has been established by clear and convincing evidence and the father of the child has openly and notoriously acknowledged the child as his own; or
(D) a blood genetic marker test had been administered to the father which together with other evidence establishes paternity by clear and convincing evidence.
(3) The existence of an agreement obligating the father to support the non-marital child does not qualify such child or his issue to inherit from the father in the absence of an order of filiation made or acknowledgement of paternity as prescribed by subparagraph (2).
(4) A motion for relief from an order of filiation may be made only by the father and a motion for relief from an acknowledgement of paternity may be made by the father, mother or other legal guardian of such child, or the child, provided however, such motion must be made within one year from the entry of such order or from the date of written notice as provided for in subparagraph (2).
(b) If a non-marital child dies, his surviving spouse, issue, mother, maternal kindred, father and paternal kindred inherit and are entitled to letters of administration as if the decedent were legitimate, provided that the father and paternal kindred may inherit or obtain such letters only if the paternity of the non-marital child has been established pursuant to provisions of clause (A) of subparagraph (2) of paragraph (a) or the father has signed an instrument acknowledging paternity and filed the same in accordance with the provisions of clause (B) of subparagraph (2) of paragraph (a) or paternity has been established by clear and convincing evidence and the father of the child has openly and notoriously acknowledged the child as his own.
Disqualification of parent to take intestate share
(a) No distributive share in the estate of a deceased child shall be allowed to a parent if the parent, while such child is under the age of twenty-one years:
(1) has failed or refused to provide for the child or has abandoned such child, whether or not such child dies before having attained the age of twenty-one years, unless the parental relationship and duties are subsequently resumed and continue until the death of the child; or
(2) has been the subject of a proceeding pursuant to section three hundred eighty-four-b of the social services law which:
(A) resulted in an order terminating parental rights, or
(B) resulted in an order suspending judgment, in which event the surrogate's court shall make a determination disqualifying the parent on the grounds adjudicated by the family court, if the surrogate's court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the parent, during the period of suspension, failed to comply with the family court order to restore the parent-child relationship.
(b) Subject to the provisions of subdivision eight of section two hundred thirteen of the civil practice law and rules, the provisions of subparagraph one of paragraph (a) of this section shall not apply to a biological parent who places the child for adoption based upon:
(1) a fraudulent promise, not kept, to arrange for and complete the adoption of such child, or
(2) other fraud or deceit by the person or agency where, before the death of the child, the person or agency fails to arrange for the adoptive placement or petition for the adoption of the child, and fails to comply timely with conditions imposed by the court for the adoption to proceed.
(c) In the event that a parent or spouse is disqualified from taking a distributive share in the estate of a decedent under this section or 5-1.2, the estate of such decedent shall be distributed in accordance with 4-1.1 as though such spouse or parent had predeceased the decedent.
No estate property, whether passing by intestacy or otherwise, which has its situs in this state, shall pass to any other state or territory of the United States, or to any foreign country or sovereignty in the event of the absence of an individual heir, distributee, legatee or owner of said property, but shall pass as abandoned property to the state of New York, and shall be held as such property pursuant to the abandoned property law.
Disqualification of joint tenant in certain instances
Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a joint tenant convicted of murder in the second degree as defined in section 125.25 of the penal law or murder in the first degree as defined in section 125.27 of the penal law of another joint tenant shall not be entitled to the distribution of any monies in a joint bank account created or contributed to by the deceased joint tenant, except for those monies contributed by the convicted joint tenant. Upon the conviction of such joint tenant of first or second degree murder and upon application by the prosecuting attorney, the court, as part of its sentence, shall issue an order directing the amount of any joint bank account to be distributed pursuant to the provisions of this section from the convicted joint tenant and to the deceased joint tenant's estate. The court and the prosecuting attorney shall each have the power to subpoena records of a banking institution to determine the amount of money in such bank account and by whom deposits were made. The court shall also have the power to freeze such account upon application by the prosecuting attorney during the pendency of a trial for first or second degree murder. If, upon receipt of such court orders described in this section, the banking institution holding monies in such joint account complies with the terms of the order, such banking institution shall be held free from all liability for the distribution of such funds as were in such joint account. In the absence of actual or constructive notice of such order, the banking institution holding monies in such account shall be held harmless for distributing the money according to its ordinary course of business. For purposes of this section, the term banking institution shall have the same meaning as provided for in paragraph (b) of subdivision three of section nine-f of the banking law.
[Reference - New York's Intestacy laws].