Because the domestic partners never married--and they are not considered common law spouses because New York does not recognize common law marriages unless they were created in a state that does recognize them--the surviving partner was not eligible to inherit a penny from his deceased partner's estate, built during a lifetime together. The only silver-lining is that the surviving partner also had a sizable estate and did not rely on or need the deceased partner's assets to survive. Let's at least be thankful for that.
Thing is, the deceased person also had no surviving blood relations other than distant cousins overseas, some of whom are known, others of whom are not known. The deceased person did enjoy something of a relationship with some of these cousins throughout her life, but if asked she never would have left her estate to any of them--she would have left it all to her partner. However, these distant cousins are the only people who now stand in line to inherit the deceased person's estate. They're what the law calls "laughing heirs" or "laughing cousins"--people who stumble into large and unexpected inheritances solely because of poor or no planning on the part of a deceased blood relative and the mere fact that there's a blood relation in the first place.
And when there is no one left to laugh? All that the deceased person built and acquired through their life's work goes to the state's coffers.
For anyone who is interested, here is what happens to a person's estate if they die without a will:
- If you leave behind a spouse and no children, the spouse gets everything.
- If you leave behind a spouse and children, the spouse gets $50,000 plus 1/2 of the estate, and the children share the remaining 1/2 equally.
- If you leave behind children but no spouse, the children share the estate equally. If any of the children predeceased you leaving behind their own children (i.e., your grandchildren) then the children of the predeceased child share that child's portion of your estate equally.
- If you leave no spouse or children, your parents get your estate.
- If your parents are deceased, then their children (your siblings) will share the estate.
- If you have no surviving siblings, your estate will go to your grandparents if living or to their children (your aunts and uncles) if your grandparents predecease you. If any of those aunts and uncles predecease you, their surviving children (your first cousins) would equally share that aunt or uncle's portion.
- If you have no living grandparents, aunts, uncles, or first cousins then your estate will go to your great-parents if living or their children (your great aunts and uncles, or second cousins).
- If no one survives you--again, the New York State Treasury is happy to take your estate.
If you would like to discuss any of this, and/or have questions you'd like answered, please contact me anytime.
Thanks for reading.