North Carolina Laws About Decedents Not Leaving Wills

By Abby Lane

In North Carolina, as in most states, when you die without a will you are considered “intestate.” When a North Carolinian dies intestate, the state’s intestate succession laws determine where the intestate person’s property will go. The process of accounting for and distributing the deceased person’s property is called probate and is handled by the North Carolina Superior Court in the county where the deceased person lived when he died.

Appointing an Administrator

The Court’s first step in probating an intestate person’s estate is to appoint an estate administrator. This person is sometimes called the personal representative or the executor of the estate.The administrator is responsible for filing paperwork with the court, managing the estate, and distributing the property in the estate to the deceased person’s heirs according to North Carolina’s intestate succession laws. Generally, a relative will be appointed to administer the estate. The court will give priority to people more closely related to the deceased. Spouses have first priority to appointment, then children, then siblings, and so on.

Testate vs. Intestate Probate

The probate process will be much the same for an estate without a will, or intestate estates, as for an estate with a will, called testate estates. If there is a will, it is submitted to the court and the deceased person’s property is distributed according to its terms. Without a will, the deceased person’s property is distributed to his heirs, or relatives, according to North Carolina intestate succession laws. If the intestate person’s real property is located in a different state, the intestate laws of that state will govern who inherits that property. In both cases, the estate administrator will, give notice to creditors that the estate is in probate, file an inventory, or list of the deceased person’s property, pay the estate’s expenses and debts, file taxes and defend the estate against law suits.

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Intestate Succession

North Carolina’s intestate succession laws will distribute the deceased person’s property and assets to his heirs, or relatives, in order of priority. The closer the relative, the higher the priority that person has to inherit. Spouses have the highest priority. If the deceased has no living parents, descendents (children or grandchildren), the entire estate goes to the surviving spouse. If the deceased has surviving parents, but no children, the first $50,000 of personal property and fifty percent of the remaining property goes to the surviving spouse. The other fifty percent of the remaining property goes to the parents. If the deceased has one child or descendent, the first $30,000 of personal property and fifty percent of the remaining property goes to the surviving spouse. The other fifty percent of the property goes to the child or descendent. If the deceased has two or more children or descendents, the first $30,000 of personal property and one-third of the remaining property goes to the surviving spouse. The other two-thirds of the property goes to the children or descendents. If the deceased has no spouse, his entire estate will go to the closest group of relatives in the following order: children or their descendents, surviving parents, siblings, surviving grandparents and finally, uncles and aunts.

No Heirs Found

If the estate administrator cannot find any heirs, the estate goes to the State of North Carolina and is used as financial aid to North Carolina students at public institutions of higher education in North Carolina.

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