Complications of inheritance rules may arise for unmarried partners in New York State.

New York – November 30, 2020

Probate is the process of proving that a will is valid. In New York probate, a will is proved to the satisfaction of the court that it is the Last Will and Testament of the person who died. Once the Judge in New York Surrogate’s Court is convinced of the validity of a Will, the executor named in the will is then appointed to distribute the estate, by carrying out the wishes of the person who died. The Surrogate’s Court oversees this process. Hurdles may arise when a person has not updated a will to provide for their partner, whom they have not married.


Spousal rights are recognized when parties have been married, but if a person dies without a will (intestate), the distribution is likely to go to the next of kin, not the partner who is excluded from this class that includes:

  • Spouse,
  • One, or both parents, if no spouse,
  • One, or more grandparents,
  • Great grandchildren of grandparents,
  • Half-blood relatives treated as blood relatives,
  • Distributees of decedents who are conceived, or born after the death of an individual,
  • Adoptive children.

There is a detailed application of these rules depending on the individual assignment from the list, but “life partners” are not legally provided for unless a will specifically outlines what assets they should receive upon the death of their loved one.

Plan ahead.

Individuals who have committed relationships with partners should prepare for long-term events by opening joint accounts, having dual ownerships on property deeds, and through alternatives that will ensure they are provided for when untimely death occurs.  Probate issues can also be reduced by preparing Wills, healthcare proxies, powers of attorney and other documents to insure that each party’s desires are recorded and reflected in enforceable documents.

Probate and assets.

When a person dies in the State of New York, it is important for their family or representative to coordinate actions with a probate attorney to file the proper petitions with the Surrogate Court.  In New York, not all assets are legally required to go through probate, so if an estate is made up of non-probate assets, the process can be bypassed for parties interested in a timely administration of an estate.  If an estate is made up of non-probate assets, probate may not be necessary at all.  Since each case is unique and asset distribution will need to be addressed per the individual’s will, or the overriding state laws, it is best to consult with Ron Meyers, a knowledgeable probate attorney in New York.

Hire legal counsel.

The assistance of experienced legal counsel who understand New York State and federal laws that will impact its administration is necessary for those not provided for through spousal rights.  Contact Attorney Ron Meyers with questions regarding probate petitions, and non-probate assets which may be a safety net for partners who are not married.


Ron L. Meyers & Associates, PLLC

Address:  475 Park Avenue South, Suite 2100

Manhattan, NY 10016

Phone: 212-644-8787





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