While it might not be the most important things on peoples’ minds, the truth is that all of us need a last will and testament, regardless of whether or not we think our estates are large enough to need one. Without a last will and testament or some type of trust, the assets of our estate will enter into what is known as intestacy and be distributed according to a line of succession dictated by the law, rather than what our final wishes may have been.
In New York, any assets not placed into a trust will need to pass through probate court (known as Surrogate’s Court in the state). Even in cases where the deceased created a will and specifically dictated which assets go to which heirs, the court must still hear the matter to ensure the deceased’s wishes are carried out.
However, certain assets will not pass through probate with or without a will. These types of assets include homes that are jointly owned by spouses, life insurance payouts, retirement accounts with named beneficiaries, and bank accounts set up as payable-on-death. Without a will, any other assets like personal property and savings accounts will be passed along according to New York’s intestacy laws.