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Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Case in New York?

Mar 4, 2015 | Wrongful Death

Many of those who come to wrongful death attorneys in the state of New York have significant questions about who gets the money in a wrongful death case. Many times, these questions require fairly complex answers where local attorneys will look at the full context of a particular case to figure out where settlement money or other court awards will go.

New York Estates

In many cases, a deceased individual’s estate governs nearly all of the practical aspects of awarding any settlement money. Attorneys work through the estates as a matter of course, operating on the principle that money flows out of these entities to beneficiaries. However, in some cases, money can go directly to a family member or other party instead of into the estate. Part of this has to do with whether the individual in question has named his or her estate as the beneficiary.

Potential Beneficiaries and Other Issues

In New York, damages for wrongful death get distributed based on the interests of the class of entities called ‘distributees’ — people who are basically beneficiaries. These distributees are empowered by New York’s Estate Powers and Trust Law to recover money from a wrongful death case.

These distributees are often the spouse or children of the individual whose estate is being reviewed in a wrongful death case. However, in some cases, they can involve other parties, such as charities.

Skilled lawyers can look closely at how an estate is set up and determine where and how Power of Attorney or other factors may apply.

Another complication is that legal fees may apply to wrongful death settlement money. The chronology of how legal fees are taken out is something that knowledgeable wrongful death lawyers should advise on as a matter of policy and as a service to their customers.

Different Distributions for Wrongful Death and Pain and Suffering Awards

Individuals should also be aware that compensation for any pain and suffering experienced prior to one’s death is distributed differently than compensation related to the wrongful death.

Simply put, if an individual suffers from an accident for a period of time and then dies, the compensation for the pain and suffering before his or her death will be distributed differently than the proceeds related to the wrongful death claim. The death claim is determined by statute in New York.

Such situations are very complex and are governed by the Surrogates Court. No wrongful death in New York can be settled without approval of the court and a court order. This is a very time-consuming and complicated procedure. It is important to note that insurance companies will never pay a claim in New York without a court order, even if it is agreed upon.

Working With a Good Law Firm is Key

Effective New York personal injury and wrongful death lawyers will work to keep clients informed about all of these technicalities in a wrongful death case. Family members need to know how awards will happen and how settlements will be distributed.

Family members with questions about a wrongful death case in New York can get qualified help from the attorneys at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff. We will listen to your case and review your claim, keeping you informed about your rights and how New York law applies. Get professional, dedicated NY wrongful death and personal injury lawyers on your side to help you handle all of your questions surrounding the departure of a loved one.