If there is one thing that readers of this New York estate planning blog should take away from its many posts it is that everyone should have an estate plan. An estate plan does not have to be a complicated scheme of inheritance and conditions: estate plans need only be enough to fulfill the wishes of their testators and satisfy the requirements of New York law. Wealthy or of modest income, with children or single, all individuals can and should build the estate plans that they want.

That is because death is an unavoidable truth for everyone and a failure to provide an estate plan can result in a person’s estate being subject to the laws of intestate succession. Someone dies intestate when they die without a will, and their estate then becomes distributable based on a complex set of rules. Generally, an estate will pass to a person’s spouse, but special considerations may exist if the decedent had children from previous relationships.

Estates often pass up and down the family tree as potential beneficiaries are identified through the intestate succession process. After a spouse, a decedent’s kids may be next to inherit, and then the decedent’s parents, their siblings, and then their grandparents. The process goes on as the probate court looks for a suitable beneficiary.

As one can see, a person’s estate may end up passing to someone they do not want to benefit if no estate plan is in place and executed. Intestate succession laws serve a purpose but individuals can avoid this situation by drafting and executing authoritative estate plans with the help of their trusted attorneys.