Bob Marley, the singer famous for the song Three Little Birds, whose chorus was:
“Don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be alright”
passed away on May 11th,1981, without a will, with a fortune, and with at least eleven children from several different mothers, one of whom was his wife. The court battle was long and complicated.
It is said that Bob Marley had religious reasons for not drafting a will. His religion did not believe in acknowledging death, and he felt that drafting a will, despite his having cancer, would go against his religion.
Well, we don’t live in Jamaica, we live in New York. What does New York have to say about passing away without a will?
The laws of intestate succession are found in Estates, Powers, & Trusts Law 4-1.1. There are protocols for who would receive the benefit of the estate, such as your spouse getting 100 percent if you have no children, to getting $50,000 plus one half of your remaining estate if you do have children, with the children getting the remaining half in equal shares. The law goes as far along the family tree as grandparents and grandchildren with virtually all contingencies being considered. The law also treats relatives of the half blood the same as those of the whole blood. The law also dictates who would be in charge of your estate, the “administrator,” acting much like an “executor.”
Most of us do not have a religious prohibition and would be well served to have a will drafted dictating our wishes regarding our money, our minor children, and possibly saving our heirs on estate tax. When you have a will drafted, you get to decide who will be in charge of your estate — in other words, who will make the decision about selling certain assets. That executor is supposed to distribute to the beneficiaries in the percentages and at the times dictated by your will.
Deborah E. Kaminetzky, Esq.
Kaminetzky Law & Mediation, P.C.
132 Spruce Street
Cedarhurst, New York 11516