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NC and SC Estate Planning and Elder Law Firm

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dying Without a Will

If you die without a valid will in place, you are deemed to have died intestate. Without a valid will, the state intestacy laws will apply and your assets will be distributed accordingly. This is why it is so important to estate plan. Without a valid will, you lose control of who will get what from your estate. Take the time to put an estate plan in place and know that your wishes will be honored after you pass away.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

First, it is important to address the fact that the intestacy laws will only apply to assets that would have been distributed by the terms of your will. Not all assets, however, would pass through your will. Some assets pass outside of a will and the probate process altogether. For instance, property that was held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship would pass outside of a will. Upon the death of a joint owner, the interest the owner held in the property automatically passes to the surviving owner. There is no need for a will or a court process for this to happen. Other assets that would pass outside of a will include:

  • Assets held in living trust
  • Accounts with listed beneficiaries such as IRA’s 401(k)s, and other retirement accounts
  • Payable on death accounts that may include things like savings accounts and certificates of deposit
  • Transfer on death accounts such as securities
  • Life insurance proceeds

Other assets that would have passed by will are subject to the state intestacy laws. Without a will, the court will appoint an administrator of the estate who will be tasked with paying the debts of the estate and other expenses. The administrator will also oversee the distribution of the estate to the heirs according to the state intestacy laws.

In North Carolina, intestate succession would go as follows:

  • If you die without a spouse or children, but your parents are alive, the whole of your estate passes and is divided equally between your parents. If only one parent is still alive, he or she will receive the entire estate.
  • If you die without children, but your spouse and your parents are alive, your spouse receives the first $50,000 of personal property. Of the remaining personal property, your spouse will receive one half and your parents will receive one half. In regards to any real estate, your spouse will receive half and your parents will receive the other half.
  • If you die, but you have a surviving spouse and two or more children, your spouse receives the first $30,000 of personal property, one third of the remaining personal property, and one third of all real estate holdings. The remaining two thirds of your personal property and real estate holdings will then be evenly divided amongst your children.
  • If you die and have one or more surviving children, but no surviving spouse, all of your assets will be evenly split between your children.

If you die without a surviving spouse, child, or parent, the laws of intestate succession provide for your assets being passed to increasingly remote relatives. In the complete absence of any valid legal heirs, your assets pass to the state.

Helping You Take On the Important Process of Estate Planning

Estate planning is too important to put off. The fact that your assets could be distributed in a way that would go against your wishes is just the tip of the iceberg. Put an estate plan in place and make sure you are protecting your wishes for you and your family. At Monk Law Firm, we are here to answer any questions you may have as we work to develop a comprehensive estate plan that meets all of your needs. Contact us today.


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Monk Law Firm, PLLC assists clients throughout Charlotte, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and the surrounding areas.



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1701 First Baxter Crossing, Suite 101, Fort Mill, SC 29708
| Phone: 803-594-4453
13315 Carowinds Blvd., Suite Q, Charlotte, NC 28273
| Phone: 704-369-9977

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