Dying Without a Will in North Carolina

By Tom Streissguth

In North Carolina, as in other states, dying without a will is known as dying intestate. It means your assets and liabilities are handled according to the state's laws of intestate succession. This is a complex set of rules, enforced by the probate court, that determines who the heirs of your estate are and the portion of the estate to which they are entitled.

In North Carolina, as in other states, dying without a will is known as dying intestate. It means your assets and liabilities are handled according to the state's laws of intestate succession. This is a complex set of rules, enforced by the probate court, that determines who the heirs of your estate are and the portion of the estate to which they are entitled.

Estate Administration

When handling intestacy, the North Carolina probate court will appoint an estate administrator to inventory all assets, pay debts and taxes, handle funeral expenses, and distribute the remaining property to the heirs of an estate. The court will deduct costs for administration before any property is distributed. These costs include clerk's fees and the fee paid to the court-appointed administrator.

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Real Property

The North Carolina Intestate Succession Act specifies the portion of real property assigned to the spouse, descendants -- natural or adopted children and grandchildren -- parents, and relatives of the deceased, known as the decedent. If a spouse and one child survive the decedent, the state assigns one-half interest in real property to the surviving spouse; if there are two or more children, or one child and any grandchildren, the spouse inherits one-third of the property. If there are no children or grandchildren, but at least one parent, the spouse is entitled to a one-half interest. The spouse inherits the entire estate if there are no children, grandchildren, or parents. If a spouse or descendants do not survive a decedent, the entire net estate passes to the decedent’s parents. If a spouse, descendants, or parents do not survive a decedent, the entire net estate passes to the decedent’s siblings or descendants of any deceased siblings. North Carolina law applies to real property within the state; real property located elsewhere is subject to the intestate laws of that state or country.

Personal Property

For personal property, such as cash, investments, boats, antiques, jewelry and other personal possessions, North Carolina first designates property, up to a total of $30,000, to go solely to the spouse, whether or not there are children, grandchildren or parents. After the initial $30,000, the law awards personal property to the spouse and other heirs proportionally as with real property. North Carolina intestate law applies to all personal property, no matter where it is located.

Exceptions

Certain assets are exempt from the intestate laws of North Carolina and are distributed according to contractual terms. For example, life insurance policies with designated beneficiaries pay the death benefits to the beneficiaries directly and are not covered by the intestate laws. This is also true for any payable-on-death (POD) or transferable-on-death (TOD) accounts that go to the named individual.

Escheat

If the court finds that no individual has a legal claim to the estate, the property undergoes "escheat," meaning it is turned over to the state. North Carolina General Statute 116B-7 provides that the interest earnings from the state escheat fund go to student-aid programs in North Carolina.

Allowance

North Carolina law also allows a surviving spouse to apply for a one-year support allowance for up to $20,000, or $30,000 if the spouse is the sole heir. The year is counted from the date of death. Any children under 18 are also entitled to a year's allowance of $2,000.

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Death Without a Will in Michigan

References

Related articles

Florida Rules on No Wills

When a person dies without a valid will, Florida law steps in and directs how the individual's assets will be distributed. The person who died, referred to as the "decedent," is considered "intestate." In addition to providing which heirs receive what portions of the estate, the intestate laws also dictate how a personal representative will be appointed.

Probate Laws for No Will in the State of Maine

Maine probate courts oversee the distribution of decedents' estates to their heirs. When a person dies without a will, thus leaving an intestate estate, Maine probate statutes govern how the intestate estate should be divided. Probate judges appoint personal representatives, also called administrators, to distribute intestate estates to heirs. Generally, an administrator must gather estate assets, pay estate debts and convey the net assets to heirs within approximately one year of appointment.

What Happens to Assets With No Next of Kin?

When someone dies without clear heirs or beneficiaries, it may be difficult for the court to correctly distribute the estate’s assets. State laws establish which relatives can share in the deceased's assets and what happens to those assets when no relatives are available to inherit. The laws that govern this process vary from state to state, though many states’ laws are similar.

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