New York's Children Inheritance Laws

Drawing up a will while you are alive protects your interests after you die.
Drawing up a will while you are alive protects your interests after you die. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

When someone with children dies and has a will in place, New York law allows that person to distribute as much or little of his property to his children equally, or divide it any way he wants to even if it means the children get nothing. If, however, he dies without a will, the estate will be probated, and at that point there are definite provisions for inheritance rights for children of the deceased.


New York law protects the right of a parent to expressly disinherit a child. Disinheritance must be done through a last will and testament before death. The parent can leave property to children of his choice and disregard the children he does not want to leave anything to. The express decision to disinherit a child should be clearly spelled out in the will to avoid having the child claim it was an unintentional disinheritance.

Unintentional Disinheritance

When a parent makes a last will and testament that leaves property to his children and after the will is drawn up he has another child but does not change his will to include that child before the parent dies, the child has a legal right to challenge the will under the unintentional disinheritance law. The law's premise is the parent simply forgot or did not have time to change the will to include the additional child or children before dying. This law only applies if the will expressly does leave property to the siblings of the child who is not included. If the will expressly disinherits the other children, it is also presumed that the last-born child would have been disinherited as well.

Adopted Children

A parent who adopted a child during life has the right to treat that child as a biological child when it comes to inheritance laws. The child stands to inherit an equal share with the deceased's biological children in the event there is no will. Conversely, the parent has a right to expressly disinherit the adopted child. A biological child who was adopted out from the deceased has the right to claim inheritance rights, according to New York law. A parent who gave up a child for adoption and does not want the child to inherit anything when the parent dies needs to expressly include the disinheritance of the adopted child in the will.

Marital Status

The property of a deceased parent without a will is divided by the state's probate court in a manner dependent on the deceased's marital status. New York law mandates that if the deceased is married with children and dies without a will, the spouse of the deceased automatically inherits half the estate and the children of the deceased divide the remaining 50 percent. All children including those not born of the marriage share equally in the inheritance.

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