According to North Dakota's Uniform Probate Code, a state resident can explain how he would like his property divided in a last will and testament. However, there are certain guidelines a will maker, known as a testator, must follow to make a valid will. If these guidelines aren't followed, a will may be declared invalid. When this occurs -- or if an individual doesn't make a will at all -- the state laws of intestate succession then govern the division of property.
When a person dies with no will or with an invalid will, it's referred to as dying "intestate." In North Dakota, when a married person dies intestate, her surviving spouse is entitled by law to receive an inheritance. North Dakota's laws of intestate succession provide that a surviving spouse is entitled to all of her deceased spouse's estate if there are no surviving children. If there are surviving children, and those children are descendants of the surviving spouse and the deceased spouse, the surviving spouse is still entitled to the entire estate.
North Dakota recognizes a surviving spouse's right to take an elective share of his spouse's estate. For example, if a will provides a spouse with a smaller inheritance than he would receive under state law, he may elect to set aside the portion in the will and choose the share provided by state law. The right to take an elective share ensures that surviving spouses receive a fair and just portion of marital property.
North Dakota law explains when children are entitled to a share of their parent's estate. If a parent dies intestate and is not married at the time of death, her children receive her entire estate -- in equal shares. If a parent dies intestate and is married when she dies, but her surviving spouse is not her children's biological parent, her children are entitled to what remains of the estate after the surviving spouse receives his share. According to North Dakota's intestate succession laws, if a surviving spouse is not the biological parent of a decedent's children, he is entitled to the first $150,000, plus one-half of the balance of the estate assets -- the children share all that remains equally.
North Dakota law gives parents the right to inherit all or a portion of their child's estate under certain circumstances. For example, if a child dies without a surviving spouse and no children of her own, her parents inherit her entire estate. However, if a child is married at the time of death, and has no children of her own, her parents are entitled to what remains after the surviving spouse takes his share. In other words, parents inherit what's left after the surviving spouse takes the first $350,000, plus three-fourths of the balance of the estate assets.