• Nicholas Overby

Who Inherits From Me if I Die Without a Will?

Updated: Aug 8

Intestate Succession - Wills


The most common misunderstanding I hear from new estate planning clients is this: “I just don’t want the State to get it all.” It seems to be a widely held belief that if a person dies without a will, all their possessions and property pass to the State. While that outcome is possible under very specific circumstances, it is very rare.


Chapter 29 of the North Carolina General Statutes governs what is called “Intestate Succession.” Subject to certain exceptions like the statutory spousal years allowance, and property that is subject to a right of survivorship, etc., Chapter 29 provides a framework for determining what happens to a persons property if they die without a valid will or if their valid will. Let’s consider a few examples.


Example #1: If you are survived by a spouse but not by any children or lineal descendants of deceased children nor by your parents, all your property passes to your spouse.


Example #2: If you are survived by children but not a spouse, your property will be divided equally among your children.


Example #3: If you are survived by a spouse and only one child or the lineal descendants of one deceased child, your spouse is entitled to the first $60,000 of your personal property and they split your remaining property 50/50.


Example #4: Forgive me — this one gets a bit complex. If you are survived by a spouse and two or more children, or by a spouse and one child and the lineal descendants of one or more deceased children, or by a spouse and by the lineal descendants of two or more deceased children, your spouse is entitled to the first $60,000 of your personal property and your remaining property is divided between your spouse, who gets one-third (1/3), and your children who split two-thirds (2/3).


Further, if you die without a valid will and have no surviving spouse or children, Chapter 29 passes your property to any number of relatives, possibly including parents, or siblings, or nieces and nephews, and on down the line before your property would ever escheat to the State. Clear as mud, right?

If you have a loved one who passed away without a valid will and you aren’t sure where to turn, or if you have read this and think "I need a will!" please contact us to learn more.


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