Legal Rights for a Widow With No Will in NC

By Wayne Thomas

Having a will in place helps clarify how a deceased person wanted his property distributed to his loved ones. If no will is present at death, the probate court must step in and distribute the property under a rigid set of state law rules known as intestate succession. As a surviving spouse in North Carolina, the extent of your legal right to your husband's property depends on the nature of his assets and the existence of other living relatives.

Having a will in place helps clarify how a deceased person wanted his property distributed to his loved ones. If no will is present at death, the probate court must step in and distribute the property under a rigid set of state law rules known as intestate succession. As a surviving spouse in North Carolina, the extent of your legal right to your husband's property depends on the nature of his assets and the existence of other living relatives.

Automatic Transfers

If your spouse listed you as the beneficiary on certain types of property, you may have the right to take immediate ownership without any legal proceeding. This property is referred to as "non-probate" and includes life insurance payouts, trust assets, and payable-on-death accounts. Further, North Carolina recognizes a form of joint ownership between husband and wife known as a tenancy by the entirety. Property titled this way, typically real estate, automatically passes to you in full upon the death of your spouse.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now

Serve as Administrator

Property that does not pass automatically at death is known as probate property. Probate property generally can only change ownership through a legal proceeding and must first be collected and valued by a court-appointed personal representative. As the surviving spouse, you may request this appointment by filing an application with the court. Under North Carolina law, a surviving spouse is generally entitled to serve as representative, provided she has sufficient knowledge of the extent of her spouse's assets.

Support Allowance

When an individual dies in North Carolina, the surviving spouse is entitled to an immediate support allowance of up to $20,000 in probate property, if available. This is true regardless of whether a valid will was present, and it means that you have a right to this amount over any creditor claims at death. After the support allowance is paid, any remaining balance will be used by the representative to satisfy debts, taxes and funeral expenses.

Estate Share

Once the support allowance and all debts have been paid, the remaining estate can be distributed. If your husband has no surviving parents, and you had no children together, you are entitled to the entire estate. If your spouse left at least one child or grandchild, you are entitled to the first $30,000 plus one half of the remaining estate. If your spouse left more than one living child or their descendants, you are entitled to the first $30,000 plus one third of the remaining estate. If your spouse left no children, but left one or both parents, you are entitled to the first $50,000 plus one half of the remaining estate.

Protect your loved ones by a legally binding will. Make a Will Online Now
Spousal Property Rights & the Probate Process

References

Related articles

Inheritance Laws & Marital Property in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, a married person can make a will and leave everything to his spouse, if he chooses. However, if a married person dies without a will, known as dying "intestate," Pennsylvania's laws of intestate succession provide protection to the surviving spouse by granting her a portion of the estate. The portion to which a surviving spouse is entitled depends on whether the deceased spouse has surviving children or parents.

What Does "Your Estate" Mean When a Relative Has Passed Away?

Legally, your estate is everything you own. It’s a relatively simple definition, but it can become a bit more complicated when someone dies. When your relative passes away, the law breaks down his overall estate -- all his property -- into categories. His estate will likely include assets that must pass through the probate process, assets that do not require probate, and taxable assets.

Dying Without a Will in Delaware

You may have preferences as to which family member or friend receives your property after your death and those wishes are typically expressed through a will. However, if you die without a will, called dying intestate, state law will decide how your property is distributed. State law also dictates the process by which your property is distributed, which is known as probate. Just like every other state, Delaware has intestacy and probate laws in case one of its residents dies without a will.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

How Does Probate Work When a Spouse Dies in Connecticut?

Property owned by your spouse must be collected and distributed to his heirs and beneficiaries after his death, in a ...

Legal Rights of the Family After a Death

When a loved one dies, settling his estate can seem like a daunting task. Those left behind may not know what rights ...

Who Inherits if There's No Will in Connecticut?

Your wishes for property distribution after you die in Connecticut may not be honored if you don't leave a valid will ...

Death Without a Will in Michigan

Under Michigan law, when a person dies without a will, it is said the person died intestate. The law has rules for what ...

Browse by category