Wills and Trusts Law Firm Pound Ridge, NY

Wills and Trusts Law Firm Pound Ridge, NY

Business Lawyer Bethel, CT

It goes without saying that the folks at Sweeney Legal, or any other good wills and trusts law firm in Pound Ridge, NY, would advise everyone to have a last will and testament in place even if they don’t think that they “need” one. You’ve probably heard this plenty of times, but you may be wondering exactly why it’s so important. Wills may not be something that you might think of as a priority, but if you want to ensure that your loved ones and estate will be taken care of when you are gone, you will want to create one sooner rather than later. Without a will, your estate will be distributed by the court. How they distribute your estate may not necessarily be in line with your preferences. In addition, without a valid will your beneficiaries may not have immediate access to their inheritance. 

The Importance of an Estate Plan 

Making an estate plan may not seem like something that should be urgently done or even necessary. However, an estate plan is recommended for anyone to make. You do not need to be a high-income earner or have many assets to develop an estate plan. When you have an estate plan, you have clear directions for how you want your estate to be managed. Having legal documents such as a will and advance directives can make it much easier for your family to determine how to move forward with your estate after your death. Creating an estate plan is one of the most considerate and beneficial things anyone can do for their future and their loved ones. 

When Someone Dies Without a Will

Let’s take a look at what happens when a resident of New York dies intestate (this means that they don’t have a valid will).
This is a common scenario for many people. If you don’t like the way this plays out, you should get in touch with a trusted attorney today. Creating a will properly can take a lot of time and you may need assistance, so having a lawyer at your side can make the process go much faster. If you have any questions about how to make a will correctly, you can ask a lawyer for help. 

For this discussion, we will assume that the estate is valued at over $50,000. Before anything else can happen, the probate court will appoint an administrator (the administrator has the same duties and responsibilities as a named executor). Probate is the court-supervised process during which a deceased person’s will is validated and their estate is formally distributed to their heirs. The Surrogate’s Court Protection Act sets out the order of precedence for who can be appointed administrator, starting with the surviving spouse followed by children, grandchildren, and parents.


There is already room for strife and hard feelings here, since the law only recognizes legally wedded spouses and not other types of life partnerships. It also lists “children” as one subset; many people have more than one child, but only one child can be appointed administrator. This can get complicated quickly, especially if you are not sure which child should be given the role. If you want to decide who will be in charge of administering your estate, you need to consult with a wills and trusts law firm in Pound Ridge, NY. They will help you develop a clear plan and help you make the best decisions for your estate.

Division of the Estate 

While the administrator does have a fiduciary duty to the estate, they do not have a lot of discretion in the distributees (the people who are entitled to a share of the estate). When a person dies without a will in place, their estate is divided according to guidelines set out by the state:

  • If the decedent was married at the time of death but had no children, the spouse inherits everything.
  • If the decedent had children but no spouse, the children inherit everything in equal shares.
  • If the decedent had both a spouse and children, the spouse inherits the first $50,000 of the estate plus half the remaining estate; the children inherit the balance in equal shares.
  • If the decedent had living parents but no spouse or children, the parents inherit everything.
  • If the decedent had siblings but no parents, spouse, or children, the siblings inherit everything in equal shares.

With so many guidelines that dictate how an estate can be divided, determining how they apply to your estate plan and inheritance scenario can be challenging. While it is easy to lay this out in bullet points, they don’t come close to capturing the complex lives that most people lead. As mentioned above, only legally wedded spouses count as “spouse” in an inheritance scenario. It’s also important to note that all legally wedded spouses count; if you haven’t talked to your spouse in twenty years, but never got around to filing for divorce, they’re still your legal spouse and still inherit. Since understanding these guidelines can be difficult for the average person, you can obtain help from a lawyer who can explain how they apply to your particular situation.


Children and Inheritances 

“Children” are also defined by the law and not by the heart. Foster children and stepchildren cannot inherit unless they have been legally adopted, and children born out of wedlock cannot inherit from their fathers unless paternity has been legally established.
If you want your children to inherit portions of your estate, you will need to formally list them as a beneficiary in your will. If you do not name them as beneficiaries, then it is not guaranteed that they will obtain the inheritance you wish to distribute to them. If you need more information about naming beneficiaries and heirs, a skilled lawyer from a wills and trust law firm would be happy to assist you. Understanding these laws is not easy, but with a lawyer at your side you can get peace of mind knowing you can make your estate plan correctly. 


In a lot of ways, it makes sense for the law to have a strict definition of family. No one wants a court to decide which potential distributee is the most deserving. It is efficient to have a predetermined succession of distributees. But, especially if you are a person whose life does not necessarily lie in line with the bullet points, it is imperative that you reach out to a good wills and trusts law firm in Pound Ridge, NY, such as Sweeney Legal, to make sure that your wishes are recorded.

Crafting a will can be a time-consuming process, and with so many guidelines and laws to comprehend it can be difficult to complete on your own. Go to a trusted estate lawyer so that they can help you navigate the complexities of estate planning. Schedule a risk-free consultation now if you need legal assistance so that you can accomplish your estate planning goals.