Who Gets my Stuff if I Die Without a Will?
The most common misconception I hear in consultations with new estate planning clients is this: “I just don’t want the State to wind up with my property.” 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, property that is subject to a right of survivorship, etc., Chapter 29 provides a framework for determining what happens to a persons property, both real and personal, if they die without a valid will or if their valid will does not dispose of all of their property. Let’s consider a few examples. These examples are not a complete list of the possibilities under Chapter 29.
Example #1: If you are survived by a spouse but not by any children nor 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, contact us here at Browder, Overby, Hall & Michaud, PA to learn more. We can help you determine the proper way to administer their estate. We can also help you determine if and what you may have inherited from a loved one who died without a valid will.