New York Pre-Nuptial Agreements Can Avoid Rights of Spouse To Share In Estate

New York estate laws provide many protections for husbands and wives with regard to their spouse’s estate. For example, if a spouse dies intestate (i.e. without a Last Will), Estates, Powers and Trusts Law section 4-1.1 provides that the surviving spouse will receive the entire estate if no issue (i.e., children) survive or $50,000.00. and one-half of the estate if issue do survive.

Where a spouse dies and leaves a Last Will and Testament, New York Law prevents one spouse from disinheriting the other. New York Estates, Powers and Trusts Law Section 5-1.1-A provides a rather complex set of guidelines that attempt to ensure that a surviving spouse receives at least the greater of $50,000.00 or one-third of the decedent’s estate.

Because of the provisions guaranteeing a spouse an interest in the others estate, concerns may arise where one spouse has substantial family assets and the other spouse has little or no personal estate. The inheritance of a family fortune over successive generations may be an important pre-marital consideration.

In such instances, and also with possible matrimonial divorce concerns in mind, a pre-nuptial agreement may be a consideration. These agreements can limit and delineate spousal rights in the case of death or a divorce. The upcoming royal wedding of William and Kate is a perfect case-in-point. Pre-nuptial agreements, like all estate and financial planning documents, involve much consideration and extensive preparation. They can be very helpful but also the source of dispute and litigation.

New York Probate and Administration Attorney Jules Martin Haas, Esq., has been representing clients in New York Trusts and Estates matters and Surrogate’s Court proceedings throughout the past 30 years. If you or someone you know is involved with or has questions about a New York Probate or intestate estate, please contact me at (212) 355-2575 or email:, for an initial consultation.

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