Research shows that over 50% of Americans die without executing a will. A person dies intestate if he or she dies without making a valid will. If you die without making a will, then the intestacy laws of the state of North Carolina (or the state in which you reside at your death) will determine how the assets of your estate are to be distributed.

A common misconception is that if someone dies without a will, the assets will pass automatically to that person’s surviving spouse. Another misconception is that a person’s prior verbal statements to his or her loved ones about how his or her assets are to be distributed at death will be followed. As you will see below, this is not true. Instead, the state of North Carolina will decide for you.

Currently, the laws of intestacy in North Carolina are as follows:

If Married:

Real Property:

  • If survived by one child or a descendant of one child, then ½ undivided interest goes to the spouse and ½ undivided interest goes to the child or the descendant of the child;
  • If survived by two or more children or by descendants of a child or children, then ⅓ undivided interest goes to the spouse and the remaining is to be distributed to the children or descendants of the deceased child;
  • If not survived by a child or a descendant of any children but is survived by one or more parents, then ½ undivided interest goes to the spouse and the surviving parents take the remaining;
  • If not survived by a child or a descendant of any children and not by any parents, then the spouse gets all of the real property.

 Personal Property:

  • If survived by one child or a descendant of one child, the spouse receives the first $60,000 in value plus ½ of the balance of the personal property and the child or descendants of the deceased child receive the other ½ of the balance of the personal property;
  • If survived by two or more children or by descendants of a child or children the spouse receives the first $60,000 in value plus ⅓ of the balance of the personal property and the remaining is to be distributed to the children or descendants of the deceased child;
  • If not survived by a child or a descendant of any children but is survived by one or more parents, the spouse receives first $100,000 in value plus ½ of the balance of the personal property and the surviving parents take the remaining; and
  • If not survived by a child or a descendant of any children and not by any parents, then the spouse gets all of the personal property.

If Not Married:

  • If survived by one child or a descendant of one child, that person takes the entire estate;
  • If survived by two or more children or descendants of deceased children, then they take the entire estate;
  • If not survived by a child or a descendant of any children, but is survived by one or more parents, the parents take the entire estate;
  • If not survived by a child or a descendant of any children and not by any parents, then the brothers and sisters take the entire estate; and
  • If not survived by children or descendants of children and not survived by any parents and not survived by any brothers or sisters, then
    • ½ to Paternal Grandparents and if they are not alive, then to Paternal Uncles, Aunts or their descendants
    • ½ to Maternal Grandparents and if they are not alive, then to Maternal Uncles, Aunts or their descendants
    • If one side can inherit, but the other cannot, such side that can inherit will take the entire estate.
  • If there are no children, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and no descendants of any such persons, the estate passes to the state of North Carolina.

It is important that individuals have a properly drafted and executed will in place so that the state of North Carolina does not make these important decisions for that individual. Contact Strauss Attorneys PLLC. to schedule an appointment to discuss your estate planning needs. Your family members will be glad you did.

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