Some people in North Carolina may suppose that if they do not have a will when they die, their estate automatically goes to their spouse and/or children. The truth of the matter is that it depends on the person’s estate and a number of family matters. 

According to the North Carolina Judicial Branch, dying without a will means the law of intestacy applies to the person’s estate. Intestacy refers to an estate with a value greater than the sum of its debts and no will governing its distribution. Without instruction from the previous owner, the state must use its own succession laws to divide the property among heirs. This refers only to property that the decedent solely owned. Jointly owned property would become the sole property of the co-owner. 

The North Carolina General Statutes explain that the surviving spouse receives all of the personal property of the decedent if the value does not exceed $60,000. If the decedent had one child, or the child died but he or she had one or more children, then half of the personal property over the value of $60,000 would go to that child or that child’s children and/or grandchildren if the child is deceased. If the decedent had two or more children, then the state distributes one-third of the personal property over $60,000 to the spouse, and divides the remaining two-thirds equally among the children. The law divides real property belonging to the decedent similarly among the surviving spouse and children. 

If there is no spouse, then the law divides the estate among the surviving children and/or grandchildren. If there are also no surviving children/grandchildren, then the parents would be in line to inherit the property. If the parents are not living, then siblings would receive the inheritance, or their children. Grandparents are next in line, and then uncles and aunts.