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Intestate laws and wrongful death awards

When someone in New York is killed in an accident, any financial award from a wrongful death settlement will be distributed among the decedent's surviving family members in accordance with intestate laws. How the award is dispersed will greatly depend on the makeup of the victim's family before the death.

If the decedent left behind a spouse and no children, priority under intestate laws will go to the person's spouse. This means that the spouse will receive the entire award in a wrongful death settlement. When there is a surviving spouse and children, the spouse will receive $50,000 from the award plus half of the remaining balance. The other half of the remaining balance will be divided equally among the surviving children.

After an unmarried person dies and leaves behind children, the entire award from a wrongful death settlement will be divided equally among the children. If the person had no spouse and no children, the award will go to the deceased person's parent or parents. When there is no spouse, no children and no parents, the award may be divided equally among the deceased person's brothers and sisters. In a case where a potential recipient died before the victim, that person's children may be entitled to receive equal portions of their parent's share of the award.

In some cases, dividing the financial award from a wrongful death case may be relatively simple. At other times, deaths in the family that preceded the victim's death can result in a great deal of confusion about the correct way to disburse funds according to intestate laws. An attorney may be able to assist a family with this process and help to ensure that no financial disputes arise in the future.

Source: United states department of justice, "Summary of State Wrongful Death and Intestacy Statutes", October 03, 2014

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