How does one turn down an inheritance in favor of the spouse instead?

A fellow caregiver asked...

In NY, if a mother dies intestate, how do her children go about refusing their share of the will. The assets should go to the husband, all children agree on this.

Expert Answer

You can easily decline to accept an inheritance when someone dies intestate (and, indeed, when someone dies leaving a will). Federal law allows any beneficiary to "disclaim" a gift or inheritance. The beneficiary simply signs a written/printed Disclaimer, stating the he or she disclaims the identified inheritance. The disclaimer must be made within nine months of the death of the person who had the property, in this case your mother.

However, there could be a potential problem here. A disclaimed inheritance goes to the next in line to receive it. For example, with a will, a gift disclaimed by a beneficiary often goes to the alternate beneficiary for that gift. So the question you need to resolve is: what does New York intestacy law provide (if anything) about disclaimed inheritances. Specifically, if a child or children disclaims inheritance(s), who is the next in line to receive it? Hopefully, that person would be the husband. But you'll have to get the answer from a New York lawyer. You need a lawyer to handle the court intestate proceeding. This lawyer should be able to research your disclaimer question.