What are New York's inheritance laws for children?

Understanding New York's Inheritance Laws for Children

Inheritance laws in New York are governed by the state's Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law (EPTL). When it comes to children, whether they are biological, adopted, or stepchildren, the specifics of how they inherit from a deceased parent can vary based on several factors. It is essential for New Yorkers to understand these laws to ensure that their children are provided for according to their wishes after they pass away.

Intestacy Succession in New York

If an individual dies without a will in New York, this is known as dying 'intestate.' In such cases, the distribution of the decedent's assets is determined by the intestacy laws of the state. For children, this means:

It is important to note that 'children' in this context refers to biological and legally adopted children. Stepchildren do not automatically have inheritance rights under intestacy laws unless they have been legally adopted by the decedent.

Children Born Out of Wedlock

For children born out of wedlock to inherit from their father under New York law, paternity must be established. This can be done by the father having formally acknowledged paternity, having been adjudicated as the father by a court, or having married the child's mother and acknowledged himself as the father.

Adopted Children and Inheritance

In New York, adopted children are treated as biological children for inheritance purposes. They have the same rights to a share of their adoptive parents' estates as any biological child would. Conversely, adoption usually severs the legal relationship between the child and their biological parents; thus, they typically do not have inheritance rights from their biological parents' estates unless specifically named in a will.

Advancements and Their Impact on Inheritance

An 'advancement' is a gift given by a parent during their lifetime to a child with the intention that it should be deducted from that child's inheritance. In New York, any lifetime gift that is declared as an advancement in writing by the parent or acknowledged in writing as such by the child will impact how much that child inherits from the parent's estate.

Inheritance Rights of Posthumously Conceived Children

A relatively modern consideration in inheritance law involves children conceived after a parent's death (posthumously). In New York, these children may have inheritance rights if they were conceived within two years of the parent's death and certain conditions are met regarding consent and notice.

Excluding Children from Wills

A parent in New York can choose to disinherit a child. However, to effectively do so, it is critical that this intention is clearly stated in a legally valid will. Without explicit disinheritance language in a will, a child may still be able to claim an 'elective share' of their deceased parent's estate if they believe they were unintentionally omitted.


New York's inheritance laws for children involve various rules that can affect how assets are distributed after a parent's death. Understanding these rules is crucial for estate planning and ensuring that one's wishes are carried out appropriately. Consulting with an experienced estate attorney can help navigate these complexities and tailor an estate plan that best protects your family's interests.