white family home

You and your spouse may have lived together in your family house for countless years. However, the New York surrogate’s court will pay no mind to this; rather, they will reference the estate planning documents you have in place. In other words, you must not forget to name your surviving spouse as the beneficiary of your house in your estate plan. Read on to discover whether your surviving spouse can automatically inherit the house and how a seasoned New York City estate administration attorney at Zimmet Law Group, P.C. can help you avoid the potential of intestate succession.

Can my surviving spouse automatically inherit the house upon my passing?

The short answer is no, your surviving spouse cannot automatically inherit your house upon your passing. Their name must appear on the deed alongside yours. If it does not, then New York State law requires that you disclose this wish in writing, primarily through a will. With a will, your designated executor will collect and preserve your house, pay its taxes and debts, and finally allocate it to your surviving spouse. Of note, your executor will follow this process for all the other assets you leave behind, as well.

Unfortunately, if you pass without a valid and enforceable will, then your house will be subject to New York State’s intestate succession. Here, an administrator (rather than an executor) will allocate your house according to intestate succession (rather than according to your wishes). The breakdown of this succession is as follows:

  1. If you have a surviving spouse but no children, then your spouse gets everything.
  2. If you have surviving children but no spouse, then your children will split everything evenly.
  3. If you have both a surviving spouse and children, then your spouse will get the first $50,000 and half of the balance while your children split everything else evenly.
  4. If you have no surviving spouse or children, but you have parents, then your parents get everything.
  5. If you have no surviving spouse, children, or parents, then your surviving siblings will get everything.

What assets do not need to undergo intestate succession?

Luckily, there are certain assets that do not need to pass through a surrogate’s court by New York Law. Meaning, they do not need to abide by intestate succession. Examples of such assets are as follows:

  • The assets that you have transferred over to your living trust.
  • The life insurance funds that you have named to your surviving spouse.
  • The IRA, 401(k), and other retirement funds that you have named to your surviving spouse.

There is no time like the present to kickstart your will. So reach out to a competent New York City estate planning attorney from Zimmet Law Group, P.C. today.