It can be tough to think about the future and planning for the end of one’s own life. Few people work hard for most of their lives just to leave their money and property to others, but the reality is that many individuals die with real and personal property to their names. In North Carolina and jurisdictions throughout the country, individuals can prepare wills to provide some guidance on how they would like their property distributed when they die.
However, if a person does not make a will or other estate plan before they pass away, their property and estate can still be distributed. The distribution will be based on the intestacy laws of North Carolina and not necessarily the unrecorded wishes of the decedent. This post will generally introduce North Carolina’s intestacy laws and how they can impact residents.
Close family relationships
When a person dies without a will, also called intestate, state law provides a framework for how their estate should be managed. The first question concerns whether they have a spouse. If they have a spouse, that spouse will generally take at least half of the decedent’s real property and a portion of their personal property.
How much property the spouse will receive will depend on if the decedent was survived by any children or any descendants of those children. Property under the laws of intestacy generally first passes to a spouse and children and their descendants before passing to other family members.
If decedent dies without children, some of their estate may move back up their family tree to their parents, siblings, and other lineal descendants. Intestacy laws move through family members and can also pass to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Maintaining control with a will
As readers can see, the laws of intestacy presume that decedents want their closely related family members to benefit first from their end-of-life estates. While this may serve the interests of some individuals, it may not work for everyone. Those who wish to leave their estates to charity, friends, or other entities may not have their wishes honored if their preferences are not recorded in a valid legal document.
Ensuring that one’s estate is managed according to their own wishes is important and can be done. Men and women in North Carolina can start estate planning at any point in adulthood and can seek the advice and counsel of estate planning lawyers for help. The future is uncertain, and time is always moving forward. It is a good time for all adults to begin the estate planning process.