Staying prepared for the day that you leave this world is a gift to your family. Too often, when individuals die, their families and loved ones are left wondering what to do. Disagreements usually erupt, and family rifts can unexpectedly arise. Dying without a will also means that your assets will go through probate court. Probate court often eats a chunk out of your estate. Dying without a will leaves your heirs confused and your assets up for grabs. Let’s look at what happens if you die without a will.

You Have No Say

In North Carolina, dying without a will means that you have no say in who inherits anything you own. Instead, a probate court distributes your assets according to intestate law.  You might think that your spouse would automatically inherit your assets. However, in some cases, this is not true. Intestate law is a long and complicated list of who gets what according to blood relations.

Sometimes, your parents may inherit a portion of your estate along with your spouse. In other cases, your children who can prove blood relationship, even if they live with someone else and barely know you, can collect inheritance equally with the children whom you raise as your own. 

According to intestate law, if you have a spouse who has moved out for no good reason and is living apart from you, they may not inherit any property that was yours. It does not matter whether you would have still included them in your will or not. Intestate laws play out according to NC Intestate Law.


What you leave behind when you die goes through a process known as probate. A probate court appoints a representative to settle your estate. This person is responsible for paying your income and estate taxes, paying your creditors, and distributing your assets according to the court rulings. 

In probate court, anyone who makes a claim on your estate has the right to try to prove that your estate owes them money. Even the state of North Carolina acts as a creditor if you have used Medicaid funds. The Medicaid recovery program attempts to recover the funds used in any long-term care you have received. This type of recovery can even mean that your estate must sell the family home to pay creditors. 

It is often possible to avoid Medicaid recovery payments by planning with your attorney. Making a complete estate plan can also protect money from creditors who would otherwise try to profit from your lack of planning.

Family Disagreements

Everyone in a family has an opinion about how to spend money. Some of the most heated disagreements in families are about money. When someone dies and leaves an estate behind with no instructions about their assets, family members feel frustrated and worried. Many think that they will get nothing or have to argue for every little thing they would have wanted from your estate. 

Writing a will makes sense to avoid fighting and struggles in your family and with your loved ones. 

Minor Children

If you have children but no last will and testament when you die, the state decides who gets custody of children. They may or may not consider the opinions of the family members who still live. 

If the children have no blood-related father, mother, or legal guardian, the state decides. Your children could end up in foster care while waiting for the outcome. They could go to a relative you would never have wanted as a guardian for your children. Without a will, you again have no say.

Funeral And Burial Arrangements

Without a will, no one knows what kind of funeral or memorial you may have desired. Your family members are left making decisions without your guidance. This kind of planning is stressful. When loved ones have to make plans like these without your input, the process becomes more difficult for all involved. 

If you were leaning towards a traditional burial, but your family wants to spend less, they could bury you in a cardboard box. If you had wanted cremation, your family could choose a satin-lined mahogany wood casket and proper burial in a vault. Ceremonies may feature speakers you would never select and religious themes you did not recognize while alive. 

A Simple Will

Writing a simple will is not a complicated process and can save you money and family pain in the long run. A will can be as in-depth or surface level as you choose. The main idea is to give your family and friends a place to start on their grieving journey while making it easy for them to settle your estate. Writing a will also ensures that your heirs inherit the way you desire, your children are cared for, and your funeral plans are carried out.

We Can Help

If you are thinking about writing a will, we can help. Our experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorneys can help you think about the important issues so that you and your family can have peace of mind about the future. We walk you through each step and every question you must consider as you draw up your will. Planning your beneficiaries for your accounts and leaving assets to your heirs doesn’t have to be difficult. Contact us today and find out how we can help.