What Happens if You Die Without a Will?

Written by Jonathan Breeden

May 11, 2016

Often, the thought of preparing a will leaves people feeling uneasy. Wills are often associated with death, and you don’t want to think about your death when you’re too busy living. But having a will in place is important for your loved ones, because it is your way of taking care of them even when you’re no longer there. Your will gives explicit instructions on how to divide your personal property or possessions; dying intestate, or without a will, means your property will go through a process known as intestate succession.

Intestate succession laws pertain to property that is owned solely by you, not anything you own jointly with another person or persons. Anything you owned for which you named a beneficiary, such as life insurance or a 401(k), will not pass through interstate succession; these accounts will pass directly onto the named beneficiary or beneficiaries. Other examples of property that will not pass through intestate laws include bank accounts or securities that have been made payable-upon-death, and any property that you transferred to a living trust.

Property that does not fall into any of the above categories will likely pass through the intestate succession laws. Below is a general list of who stands to inherit your personal property should you die intestate:

  • You do not have a spouse or children, but your parent(s) are living: Your entire estate will pass onto your parents, who are each given an equal division. If you only have living one parent then everything will pass to that parent.
  • You have a spouse and your parents are living, but you do not have children: Your spouse will receive the first $100,000 of your personal property plus ½ of any remaining personal property and ½ of all of your real estate. Your parent(s) will receive the other half of the remaining personal property as well as the other half of your real estate.
  • You have a spouse, but you have no children and your parents aren’t living: Your spouse will receive all of your property.
  • You have a spouse and one child: Your spouse will receive the first $60,000 of your personal property plus ½ of any remaining personal property and ½ of all your real estate. Your child will receive the other half of the remaining personal property and the other half of your real estate.
  • You have spouse and two or more children: Your spouse will receive the first $60,000 of your personal property plus 1/3 of any remaining personal property and 1/3 of all your real estate. Your children will split evenly the remaining 2/3 of any remaining personal property and real estate.
  • You have one or more children, but no surviving spouse: Your children will split evenly all of your property and possessions.
  • You do not have a spouse, children, or living parents: If you have one or more siblings, your sibling(s) will split evenly all of your property or possessions. If you have no other blood relatives or heirs, your assets will be escheated (i.e., transferred) to the State of North Carolina.

How a North Carolina family Law Attorney Can Help You

If you want to have control over how your estate is divided after you have passed, you will want to have a will in place. You may want to contact a North Carolina family law attorney with significant experience drafting wills to give you the peace of mind that your family is cared for after you’re gone. Call (919) 661-4970 today.

 
 

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