Estate, Powers and Trusts, § 4-1.6: Disqualification of Joint Tenant in Certain Instances

New York's Estate, Powers and Trusts law provides the rules as to how property is to be distributed following a person's death in the absence of a will. These rules are referred to as the rules of intestate succession. Generally speaking, if there is not a valid will then your property will go to your heirs as defined in the statute. For example, under New York Probate law if you pass away leaving a spouse and no children, your entire estate will go to your surviving spouse. If you pass away leaving a spouse and children, your spouse will inherit the first $50,000 of your estate as well as 50% of the rest of your estate. The other 50% of your property will go to your children in equal shares. However, if you have property that you hold in joint tenancy with another person, New York Estate law requires that your interest in that property will pass to the surviving joint tenant. There is an exception to this general rule. Under Estates, Powers and Trust, § 4-1.6, a person who is convicted of murdering a joint tenant is not permitted to profit from that crime by inheriting the deceased joint tenant's interest in the property. The accused would be allowed access to only the portion of the property that he or she contributed. As you contemplate how you would like your assets to be distributed once you have passed away, it is wise to consider contacting a Suffolk County Intestate Succession Lawyer who will work closely with you to draft a will that is in compliance with New York law and that is consistent with our wishes.

Example

In Matter of Kiejliches, 292 A.D.2d 530, 740 N.Y.S.2d 85 (N.Y. App. Div., 2002), Boris Kiejliches was killed, leaving significant assets including money in an account at Salomon Smith Barney. Boris owned the account with his wife, Elena Kiejliches. Elena sought access to the funds in the joint account. However, Elena was under suspicion of killing Boris. The court noted that under EPTL, § 4-1.6, Elena would be barred from inheriting the money in the joint account if she was convicted of murdering Boris. Thus, while the murder charges were pending the Court had the right to bar Elena from access to the money in the joint account.

Related Statutory Provisions
  1. Descent and distribution of decedent's estate: Estates, Powers and Trust, § 4-1.1
  2. Inheritance by non-marital children: Estates, Powers and Trust, § 4-1.2
  3. Disqualification of parent to take intestate share: Estates, Powers and Trust, § 4-1.4
  4. Other disqualifications: Estates, Powers and Trust, § 4-1.5
Estate, Powers and Trusts, § 4-1.6- Disqualification of joint tenant in certain instances

Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a joint tenant convicted of murder in the second degree as defined in § 125.25 of the penal law or murder in the first degree as defined in § 125.27 of the penal law of another joint tenant shall not be entitled to the distribution of any monies in a joint bank account created or contributed to by the deceased joint tenant, except for those monies contributed by the convicted joint tenant. Upon the conviction of such joint tenant of first or second degree murder and upon application by the prosecuting attorney, the court, as part of its sentence, shall issue an order directing the amount of any joint bank account to be distributed pursuant to the provisions of this § from the convicted joint tenant and to the deceased joint tenant's estate. The court and the prosecuting attorney shall each have the power to subpoena records of a banking institution to determine the amount of money in such bank account and by whom deposits were made. The court shall also have the power to freeze such account upon application by the prosecuting attorney during the pendency of a trial for first or second degree murder. If, upon receipt of such court orders described in this §, the banking institution holding monies in such joint account complies with the terms of the order, such banking institution shall be held free from all liability for the distribution of such funds as were in such joint account. In the absence of actual or constructive notice of such order, the banking institution holding monies in such account shall be held harmless for distributing the money according to its ordinary course of business. For purposes of this §, the term banking institution shall have the same meaning as provided for in paragraph (b) of subdivision three of § nine-f of the banking law.

Suffolk County Intestate Succession Lawyer

New York estate law is complicated. There are many rules that apply to the distribution of assets based on whether or not a valid will exists, the type of assets, how the decedent passed away, and the relationships of the surviving relatives to the decedent. To make sure your interest in property is well protected, it is important that you contact an experienced representative. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC has years of experience drafting estate plans for clients as well as trusts, powers of attorney, advanced health care directives and other estate planning documents. Contact us at 1.800.NY.NY.LAW (1.800.696.9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your estate plan. We serve individuals throughout the following locations:

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