What Happens If I Die Without A Will?

by Jackie Bedard on March 31, 2009

in Estate Planning,Intestacy

When a person dies without making a valid will, he or she is considered to have died intestate, and all possessions and property is divided among the deceased person’s surviving relatives according to rigid specifications set out by each state’s statutory law.

In North Carolina, after the payment of your debts, funeral expenses, probate and administrative fees, the remainder of your possessions will be divided based on North Carolina statutory law.  Under the North Carolina statutes, if you are survived by:

1. No spouse or children, with parent(s) living: Your entire estate will pass to and be divided equally among your parents. If only one parent is still living, then everything will pass to the living parent.

2. Your spouse and parents, but no children: Your spouse will receive the first $50,000.00 of personal property, one-half (1/2) of the remaining personal property and one-half (1/2) of all real estate.  Your parent(s) will receive one-half (1/2) of the remaining personal property and one-half (1/2) of all real estate.

3. Your spouse only, no children or parents living: Your spouse will receive all property which could pass under a will.

4. Your spouse and one child: Your spouse will receive the first $30,000.00 of personal property, one-half (1/2) of the remaining personal property and one-half (1/2) all real estate.  Your child will receive one-half (1/2) of the remaining personal property and one-half (1/2) of all real estate.

5. Your spouse and two or more children: Your spouse will receive the first $30,000.00 of personal property, one-third (1/3) of the remaining personal property and one-third (1/3) of all real estate.  Your children will evenly split the remaining two-thirds (2/3) of personal property and real estate.

6. One or more children, no spouse surviving. All of your property and possessions will be divided evenly among your children.

7. Neither spouse, nor children, nor parents surviving. The intestacy laws provide additional rules for distributing your assets to more remote relatives.   In the event that you have no other legal heirs (i.e., blood relatives), your assets will pass to the State of North Carolina (this is referred to as “escheat“).

At first glace, these results might seem acceptable, but for many, there are a host of problems, especially if there are minor children, step-parents or step-children involved.   See Problems With Intestacy.