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When you die without a will in North Carolina, your estate is passed onto to your heirs through what is known as intestate succession. Intestate Succession laws follow the bloodline, and depend if you were married at the time of your death and how many children you have. Your heirs may not have any say in how your assets are to be divided. The North Carolina General Assembly has set these laws in an effort to best look out for spouses, children, and other family members.
The first person to inherit in the line of intestate succession are your spouse and your children.
If you were married with at least one child, your spouse will take the first $60,000 of the estate, with the remainder being split among the spouse and the children.
If you were married without any children, but at least one of your parent survives you, your spouse’s share goes up to the first $100,000. However, your spouse is not done with the in-laws yet. The rest of the assets over $100,000 are divided between your spouse and your parents.
Real property is treated differently than your other assets. The real property that you owned at the time of your death will be divided between your spouse and your children as well. The divisions of any real property you owned will depend on how many children you have.
If you and your spouse owned the property together with what is known as “right of surviviorship”, your spouse will take the property. However, if you bought the home before you were married, your spouse may end up sharing the real property should something happen to you.
If children are inheriting from only one parent, as a result of either death or divorce from the other parent, the inheriting children are likely to receive the title to the property.
You should be aware that IRA’s, life insurance policies and joint bank accounts may not be considered estate assets, meaning that they will not be considered when dividing the assets. Leaving just one child on a bank account can lead to surprises during the estate administration.
Intestate succession can present difficulties when doing the Estate Administration with the Clerk of Court. The person in charge of an Intestate Estate is known as the Administrator, and is required to be appointed by the Clerk of Court. The Administrator is required to put up a bond, which requires a good credit rating and costs money out of pocket. The person applying to be the Administrator has to get all of the other heirs to sign off on the application, or request a hearing to show why this step is not needed.
There are times when someone does not need a will. For instance, if you are a parent with a single child, you may not need a will, if you want all of your assets to pass to that child. It is important to note that you cannot legally require that child to honor your wishes post death, unless you have a will.
If you have more than one child, or are married, you may want to heavily consider a will. When heirs consider the division of assets to be unequal or unfair, family disputes are far more likely to come about. Having a will can avoid surprises in how your estate assets pass to your spouse, children, or potentially parents. These surprises can curtail family disagreements and ensure that everyone in your family benefits the most from your legacy in a way that you think is best.
If you would like to discuss whether or not you are in need of a will, we at Westall Gray & Connolly will always be glad to talk with you about your specific situation and help you reach a decision on whether or not a will is best for you.