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Wednesday, March 15, 2023

No Valid Will? What Happens Next?

If you die without a valid will in place in North Carolina, your assets will not pass according to your wishes but instead will pass according to the terms of the State’s laws of intestate succession. When a person dies without a will, it is said that they died “intestate.” Every state has laws in place that dictate what will become of a person’s assets should they pass away without a valid will. North Carolina is no exception. So, what actually happens to your estate in North Carolina when you die without a valid will?

Understanding Intestate Succession Laws in North Carolina: What Happens When You Die Without a Will?

If you die without a will, North Carolina’s intestate succession laws will come into play to dictate what becomes of your probate estate. It is important to first be clear that intestate succession laws only impact those assets that would pass through probate. Assets that would not pass through probate will not be impacted by the laws of intestate succession. There are actually pretty substantial assets that may fall outside of the probate estate. Assets that would not be included in the probate estate and, thus, not affected by the laws of intestate succession include:

  • Assets held in a living trust
  • Life insurance policies with a named beneficiary
  • Retirement accounts with a named beneficiary
  • Securities designated as transfer on death
  • Real estate held with a transfer on death deed
  • Vehicles held with a transfer on death registration
  • Bank accounts designated as transfer on death
  • Property held in joint tenancy or tenancy by the entirety

Deciphering North Carolina Intestate Succession

For those assets that fall within the probate estate, North Carolina intestate laws will come into play when there is no valid will. Who gets what will depend on who survives you.

  • If you die with surviving children, but no surviving spouse, your children will inherit everything.
  • If you die with a surviving spouse, but no surviving parents or children, then your spouse will inherit everything.
  • If you die with a surviving spouse and one child or the descendants of one child, then your spouse will inherit half of your intestate real estate and part of your intestate property.
  • If your personal property is worth $60,000 or less, then your spouse will inherit all of it.
  • If your personal property is worth more than $60,000, then your spouse will inherit $60,000 plus half of the remaining balance and your child or descendants will inherit half of your real estate and the remaining personal property balance after your spouse takes their share.

Closest Relatives and Their Role 

The list of who will inherit what from your probate estate under the intestate succession laws starts with your closest relatives and, in the absence of close relatives, goes to more and more distant relatives. If you die intestate without any surviving relatives, your estate will “escheat” to the State.

This, however, rarely happens because the laws of intestate succession allows property to pass to those who are even remotely related to the deceased in the absence of more closely related surviving family members.

Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

Avoid your estate passing according to the state intestacy laws and not in accordance with your wishes. Have the trusted team at Monk Law develop a comprehensive estate plan on your behalf. Contact Monk Law today.


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| Phone: 803-594-4453
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