Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law 5-3.1
EPTL 5-3.1: Exemption for benefit of family
Exemption for benefit of family
(a) If a person dies, leaving a surviving spouse or children under the age of twenty-one years, the following items of property are not assets of the estate but vest in, and shall be set off to such surviving spouse, unless disqualified, under 5-1.2, from taking an elective or distributive share of the decedent's estate. In case there is no surviving spouse or such spouse, if surviving, is disqualified, such items of property vest in, and shall be set off to the decedent's children under the age of twenty-one years:
(1) All housekeeping utensils, musical instruments, sewing machine, household furniture and appliances, including but not limited to computers and electronic devices, used in and about the house, fuel, provisions and clothing of the decedent, not exceeding in aggregate value ten thousand dollars.
(2) The family bible, family pictures, video tapes, and computer tapes, discs, and software used by such family, and books, not exceeding in value one thousand dollars.
(3) Domestic animals with their necessary food for sixty days, farm machinery, one tractor and one lawn tractor, not exceeding in aggregate value fifteen thousand dollars.
(4) One motor vehicle not exceeding in value fifteen thousand dollars. In the alternative, if the decedent shall have been the owner of one or more motor vehicles each of which exceed fifteen thousand dollars in value, the surviving spouse or decedent's children may acquire one such motor vehicle from the estate, regardless of the fact that the decedent may also have been the owner of another motor vehicle of lesser value than fifteen thousand dollars, by payment to the estate of the amount by which the value of the motor vehicle exceeds fifteen thousand dollars; in lieu of receiving such motor vehicle, the surviving spouse or children may elect to receive in cash an amount equal to the value of the motor vehicle, not to exceed fifteen thousand dollars. If any motor vehicle so acquired by the spouse or children of the decedent was a specific legacy in decedent's will, the payment to the estate of the amount by which the value of the motor vehicle exceeds fifteen thousand dollars shall vest in the specific legatee.
(5) Money or other personal property not exceeding in value fifteen thousand dollars, except that where assets are insufficient to pay the reasonable funeral expenses of the decedent, the personal representative must apply such money or other personal property to defray any deficiency in such expenses.
(b) No allowance shall be made in money or other property if the items of property described in subparagraph (1), (2), (3) or (4) are not in existence when the decedent dies.
(c) The items of property, set off as provided in paragraph (a), shall, at least to the extent thereof, be deemed reasonably required for the support of the surviving spouse or children under the age of twenty-one years of the decedent during the settlement of the estate.
(d) As used in this section, the term "value" shall refer to the fair market value of each item, reduced by all outstanding security interests or other encumbrances affecting the decedent's ownership of said item.
This section of the Estates, Powers, and Trusts Law is provided as part of a free educational service by J. Douglas Barics, attorney at law for reference only. Statutes and codes such as EPTL 5-3.1 are frequently amended, and no representation is made that the above version of EPTL 5-3.1 is current. Updated statutes and codes may be available at the New York State Legislature Website. No statute should be relied on without understanding controlling case law which may further interpret it. An attorney should be consulted for legal advice.
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J. Douglas Barics, Esq. – Divorce, family, matrimonial, trial and appeals lawyer in Long Island, New York