In the state of North Carolina, dying with no will is known as dying intestate. If you pass away without a will, the state’s probate court will use the law to divide your assets and property.
Though many people wait until it’s too late, dying with no will can spare your family additional stress during a trying time. With help from an estate planning lawyer, you can make informed decisions and have the reassurance that your children and your possessions will end up in good hands.
Dying Without a Will: What Happens?
A will is a document that outlines how a person wants his or her assets distributed after passing on. Wills are the result of careful planning and intense discussion, and they should reflect your values and interests. If you pass away with no will, those decisions are left up to the courts. The probate court will choose an administrator to handle your estate, and that person may not be someone you know.
The estate administrator and the probate court will apply North Carolina’s intestate succession laws to decide matters of asset distribution. The courts will also determine custody of your children, and there’s little chance that a court-appointed administrator would do things as you would prefer.
When the State’s Laws of Intestacy Apply
To ensure the validity of a will, the document must be signed in the presence of two unbiased individuals. An oral will is only validated if it’s made during a person’s deathbed sickness and in others’ presence, and these wills only cover personal property. If a relative promised you property or certain possessions but they never made a will, you won’t have a claim against their estate. Instead, the state’s intestacy statutes determine who gets what.
Some property types, such as retirement and joint bank accounts, have designated beneficiaries and fall outside the estate. However, most other assets pass under the will or the intestacy law.
Who Inherits Your Property if There’s No Will
North Carolina’s probate court will follow the state’s intestate succession laws to decide who gets your personal property and real estate. Probate is the legal process by which a deceased person’s property is transferred to their heirs, and the division of that property depends on if you have surviving parents, children, a spouse, or other relatives.
Determining Next of Kin
If you have minor children but have no spouse, your children get everything, with each child’s share depending on how many children you’ve had. If you have a spouse but no living parents, children, or grandchildren, the spouse gets everything. However, if you pass on and leave a spouse and a child, each gets a half interest. If a deceased person is survived by his or her spouse and multiple children, the spouse gets a one-third interest.
With personal belongings such as investments, antiques, and jewelry, state law holds that the spouse will get everything if the value is under $60,000, no matter if there are surviving parents, children, or grandchildren. If the property’s value exceeds $60,000 and there’s a surviving child and a spouse, the spouse will get $60,000 plus half the remaining value.
As North Carolina’s intestate succession laws are quite complicated, it’s important to keep your family from dealing with the legal complexities of intestacy by working with a skilled estate planning lawyer and preparing a will. With one of our attorney’s help, you’ll retain control of your estate and it will be distributed as you wish.
Things to Include in a Will
Your will should include beneficiaries’ names, including individuals and charities. It should also choose an executor, or someone who will enforce the will’s terms, and it should also select a backup executor. The will should explain who will look after your children and your other dependents, and it should outline the distribution of heirlooms, assets, and valuables.
Finally, you can designate someone to care for your pets after your passing. Some people choose to leave money for their pets’ care. Retirement accounts, POD (payable on death) accounts, and life insurance policies don’t have to be mentioned in the will, as beneficiaries have already been chosen.
Is It Necessary to Hire a Lawyer to Prepare a Will?
Though North Carolina’s laws don’t require you to hire legal help, an estate planning lawyer will offer guidance that reduces estate taxes, ensures that your will complies with state law, and properly validates the document.
If you need help with creating a will to help determine your legacy, contact Wilson Ratledge today for a consultation.