When someone dies, the court must determine how to handle their estate. This process is called probate. A probate court can handle an estate in two ways: testate (dying with a will) or intestate (dying without a will). In this blog post, we will explore the difference between dying intestate and dying testate and help you decide which is best for you and your loved ones!

Testate Definition: What Does it Mean to Die “Testate?”

Testate vs intestate may seem like a daunting legal term, but it simply refers to whether you have a will in place when you die.

If you don’t have a will when you die, the court will proclaim your estate “intestate.” Without a will, your assets pass according to intestate law, which means the court will distribute them to your closest blood relatives according to North Carolina Intestate Law.

If you possess a valid will, the probate court will call your estate “testate.” Testate estates are those in which the deceased person left behind a valid will that outlines how their executor should distribute their assets. This document is usually created with the help of an attorney and notarized to ensure its validity.

In a testate estate, the executor’s responsibilities include carrying out the deceased’s wishes and distributing their assets according to the will. With a will, your assets pass as your will dictates, honoring your last wishes.

What Happens When You Die Intestate in North Carolina?

Dying intestate in North Carolina means dying without a will. When this happens, state law dictates how your estate administrator will distribute your assets.

Specifically, intestate law handles your estate by giving your assets to your closest blood relatives. This process is complicated, and the state may not distribute your assets as you would have wanted. Your assets distribute to your closest blood relatives, regardless of whether or not you want them to have your belongings. Additionally, dying without a will can cause family conflict and financial burden for your loved ones.

For example, if you have a spouse and one child (or that child’s children), your spouse receives the first $30,000 worth of personal property. The remaining personal property and real estate are split evenly between your spouse and child.

As another example, if you have a spouse and two or more children (or the children of your children), your spouse receives the first $30,000 worth of personal property, 1/3 of the remaining personal property, and 1/3 of all real estate. However, the court evenly splits all remaining personal property and real estate among the children.

Even odder ways of distributing your estate may occur if you have living parents. For example, if you have a living spouse and parents when you die, your spouse receives the first $50,000 worth of personal property. However, the court evenly splits the remaining personal property and real estate between your spouse and parents.

The complex North Carolina legal intestate system distributes your assets in increasingly complicated ways if you have a blended family.

How Do I Know if I Need a Will?

If you’re not sure whether you need a will or not, there are a few questions you can ask yourself.

  • Do you own any property?
  • Do you have children?
  • Are there people in your life who you would want to take care of if something happened to you?
  • Do you have pets?
  • Do you have savings accounts or retirement accounts?

You likely need a will if you answered yes to any of these questions. Contact a local estate planning attorney to get started.

Benefits of Drafting a Will

There are many benefits to having a will, even if you don’t think you have many assets. With a will in place, you can decide who to name as your executor. You also choose how your executor will distribute your assets after you die. The power of a will can give you peace of mind, knowing that your executor will distribute assets to care for your loved ones according to your wishes.

Additionally, having a will can help avoid family conflict. Intestate law can disturb the balance within your family. If your spouse expected to inherit everything but now must divide the assets with your parents, this could create strife between them. An intestate law inheritance is not the type of legacy most of us would like to leave behind when we die.

How to Create a Will in North Carolina

Creating a will in North Carolina is relatively simple and not expensive. You can create a handwritten will yourself, or hire an attorney to help you. Either way, it’s essential that 2 adult witnesses sign your will. Without 2 witness signatures, your will is not valid.

There are other reasons a court may consider a will invalid, so it’s always best to work with your estate planning attorney to draw up a last will and testament. This crucial legal document outlines your final wishes and determines your final legacy to your loved ones.

Your last will and testament can give you peace of mind, knowing that your executor will care for your loved ones according to your wishes. Your will also helps avoid any conflict or financial burden for your family after you pass on.

We Can Help

If you have any questions about creating a will in North Carolina, contact our office. Our estate planning attorneys at Hogan, Edwards, and Blue would love to assist you in understanding your options and creating an estate plan that’s right for you.

Estate planning is a necessary process that every adult needs to go through. Preparing for incapacitating illness, guardianships, and unexpected death is crucial for everyone! If you don’t have a will, now is the time to create one. It’s the legal way to protect yourself and your loved ones and plan for the best future!