What Happens in North Carolina When You Die Without A Will? – Part 3: Asset Distribution
by Angel Simpson
When you do not have a will, asset distribution after a person dies depends on whether they have a surviving spouse, living children, parents or other close relatives at the time of death. The following are the current North Carolina laws regarding intestate real and personal property if a person does not have a will or has assets not addressed in the will:
- If survived by children but no spouse, then children inherit everything
- If survived by spouse but no children or descendants of children and no parents, then spouse inherits everything
- If survived by spouse and one child, or descendants of one child, and you die with personal property worth $60,000 or less, then spouse inherits ½ of your real estate and all your personal property
- If survived by spouse and one child, or descendants of one child, and you die with personal property worth more than $60,000, then spouse inherits ½ of your real estate, $60,000 of your personal property and ½ the balance of your personal property; child or descendants inherit ½ of your real estate and any personal property remaining after spouse’s share
- If survived by spouse and two or more children, or descendants of those children, then spouse inherits 1/3 of your real estate, $60,000 of your personal property and 1/3 the balance of your personal property; children or descendants inherit 1/3 of your real estate and any personal property remaining after spouse’s share
- If survived by spouse and parents only and you die with personal property worth $100,000 or less, then spouse inherits ½ of your real estate and all your personal property
- If survived by spouse and parents only and you die with personal property worth more than $100,000, then spouse inherits ½ of your real estate, $100,000 of your personal property and ½ the balance of your personal property; parents inherit ½ of your real estate and any personal property remaining after spouse’s share
- If survived by parents but no spouse or descendants, then parents inherit everything
- If survived by siblings but no spouse, descendants or parents, then siblings inherit everything
- If you leave behind no spouse, children, parents or any other close relatives, and no descendants of any such persons, then your estate will go to the state of North Carolina
Although the NC intestacy laws dictate asset distribution, the intestate statute does not provide a procedure for appointing a guardian for your children. This is not an issue if you are married to your child’s other parent, but if you both die simultaneously without a will, or you do not have a guardianship provision in your will, the courts will decide who will take care of and raise your children. I am sure you can see the problem with that, especially if someone looks great on paper or presents well but you would never want them caring for your children.
Another issue with the intestate statute is that it leaves your property directly to your children. This is a problem because minor children cannot own property. Instead, asset distribution is handled by the courts by dividing your assets among your children and each child’s share is placed in a guardianship account. The court then appoints someone to manage those accounts and to provide annual accountings of how every cent of each of account is spent until each child reaches the age of 18. On top of the stress, time and expense imposed on the person appointed to manage your children’s accounts, the accounts are turned over to the children when they turn 18. I do not know about you, but I do not know any 18-year-old kids who are mentally prepared or mature enough to manage a large sum of money without making some serious financial mistakes.
Protect your assets and your children by preparing and executing a will before it is too late! Call today at (919) 821-1860 or complete our contact form. I am happy to talk to you about your estate planning needs and help you choose a plan that is best for your individual needs.
Angel Simpson is an attorney with Parker Herring Law Group, PLLC. Angel represents adoption clients all over the state of North Carolina and has experience guiding clients through the adoption process, both locally and when crossing state lines (interstate adoptions). She represents both birth parents and adoptive parents. In addition to handling all types of adoptions, Angel assists clients with estate planning and guardianship matters. Angel is a 2013 graduate of North Carolina Central University School of Law.