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By Sabrina Winters
Many people assume that when a person
passes away, that person's property is automatically transferred to the
spouse or "next of kin". I have had some clients even think that the
state takes it all! In North Carolina, when a person dies without a
Will, marital relationships, children, and surviving parents may all
need to be considered, depending upon the circumstances.
According to North Carolina law (as of
2011), if a person dies without a Will (also called "Intestate"), a
married man or woman with children will have their real property (house
or rental property for example) distributed by the Court, with 1/2
passing to the child and ½ passing to the surviving spouse. If there is
more than one child, real property will be distributed 1/3 to the
spouse and 2/3 equally among the remaining children. Personal property
(bank accounts for example) is distributed in a similar manner, with the
first $30,000 worth of the estate passing to the surviving spouse.
When a married person passes away with
no children, but has surviving parents, 1/2 of real property goes to the
parents, while 1/2 is distributed to the spouse. The first $50,000
worth of personal property is assigned to the spouse, with 1/2 of the
remainder to the parents and 1/2 to the spouse. If no parents are
surviving, all of the estate passes to the spouse.
In addition, a single man or woman with
children will have their estate divided equally between the surviving
child or children. A single person with no children will have their
estate distributed entirely to their parents, to share equally if they
survive. If there are no surviving parents, the estate will be divided
equally among brothers and/or sisters. Finally, if there are no
surviving relatives, the entire estate is distributed to the state of
As you can see, it is not always the
case that a spouse and children share in the estate. There could be
scenarios where a parent and a minor child could potentially own real
property together. What happens then? Well, since a minor cannot own
real property in North Carolina, there would probably have to be a court
proceeding to appoint a guardian and potentially even a trust to hold
the child's share of the home. Not something you want your family to be
dealing with, especially during such a difficult time.
Or, what if that single person with no
children has a parent who may be trying to qualify for Medicaid? That
inheritance will increase the value of that parent's estate and
potentially have a negative affect on the Medicaid qualification.
The best way to resolve these potential distribution problems is to take the time to put something in writing. Have a Last Will and Testament or Revocable Living Trust
in place so that your wishes can be carried out and avoid as much
conflict as possible in your family's life during a time of grieving and
View more from the NC Estate Planning Info Blog.
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