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.

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.

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.

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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.

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The Widow's Legal Rights in South Carolina

South Carolina law provides a surviving spouse with the right to inherit from her deceased spouse's estate. An estate includes all property the decedent acquired during his lifetime. If a decedent had a will, the widow receives any bequest from the will. If there is a will, but the spouse is not included, she will still receive an inheritance in accordance with South Carolina's "elective share" laws. If a decedent dies without a will, the widow will inherit based on South Carolina's laws of intestate succession.

Wyoming Estate Laws

Wyoming estate laws set forth how your property will be divided upon your death. Your estate includes everything you own at the time of death. If you create a will, most of your estate will pass to the beneficiaries you name in your will. If not, your property will pass according to Wyoming's intestate succession laws. Additionally, other property will pass by the nature of relationship or ownership.

Does Property Have to Go Through Probate Court?

Probate court handles wills and estates, and the disposition of a deceased person's property according to state law. Probate is necessary whether or not you have a will, but most states allow simplified probate for estates under a specified value. Anytime an estate is subject to probate, all forms of property within the estate are involved, with some important exceptions.

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