When someone dies without a will in North Carolina, the court looks to state law about next of kin order to determine who inherits what. This can be a difficult time for a loved one, and you may not know what to expect. Let’s explore the next of kin order and how the state uses it to distribute assets. If you wonder whether you will inherit anything from your loved one, keep reading!

Dying Without a Will

When someone dies in North Carolina, their estate goes through a process known as “probate.” If the estate is worth less than $20,000 ($30,000 for a couple), you may file an affidavit to avoid probate court.

You may also avoid probate court by working with an estate planning attorney to create a revocable trust to protect your assets. Writing a will is a part of estate planning and is critical if you want to declare who inherits your assets.

Without a will or planning, the probate court will declare the estate “intestate.” Intestate just means that there is no last will and testament.

Probate Court Appoints an Administrator

The court will then appoint an administrator of the estate who must adequately inventory all personal, financial, and real property. In addition, the administrator must follow the instructions of the court to distribute assets to the heirs.

Before anyone can inherit, the administrator must also pay taxes, creditors, and any Medicaid recovery program claims. During this process, the court expects regular reports of the administrator’s progress with the estate. Let the probate court know your availability if you’d like to take on the administrator role.

Even if you don’t understand everything and need help, you can act as an estate administrator with the help of an experienced estate administration attorney.

Assets that Do Not Go Through Probate Court

If the decedent owned accounts that do not go through probate court, the court has no jurisdiction over those items. These types of assets automatically pass to the beneficiaries and do NOT go through probate court. NC intestate law does NOT determine who will inherit these assets.

Assets that do not go through probate court include:

  • Life insurance policies with a named beneficiary
  • Jointly owned bank accounts with payable on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) clause
  • Jointly owned real estate with right of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety designations
  • Retirement Accounts with a named beneficiary
  • Property in a revocable trust

Next of Kin Order in North Carolina

The probate court will use NC Law on next of kin order to determine who inherits the property and assets of the decedent. However, if the decedent owned accounts that do not go through probate court, the court will have no jurisdiction over those items.

Surviving Spouse | Decedent With No Living Children or Parents

If you are the surviving spouse of a decedent without parents or children, 100% of the assets go to you. Because your spouse had no children or living parents, the assets go to you in entirety without a need to share with anyone.

If you need help settling the estate or meeting administrative deadlines, contact an experienced estate administration attorney.

Child | Decedent With No Surviving Spouse

As a child of someone with no spouse, 100% goes to you and any other children, divided equally between all of you.

Surviving Spouse | Decedent With One Child or Grandchild

  • 50% of intestate real estate will go to you as the spouse
  • 100% personal property to you as the spouse if it is worth $60,000 or less
  • If personal property = more than $60,000, you get $60,000 and 50% of the rest
  • The child or grandchild gets the remaining 50% of real estate and the rest of any personal property

Surviving Spouse | Decedent With 2+ Children Or Grandchildren

  • 1/3 of intestate real estate to you as the spouse
  • 100% personal property to you as the spouse if it is worth $60,000 or less
  • If personal property = more than $60,000, you get $60,000 and 1/3 of the rest
  • Children or grandchildren inherit the other 2/3 of the decedent’s real estate and any personal property beyond your share as the spouse

Surviving Spouse | Decedent With Living Parents

  • As the surviving spouse, you inherit 50% of the real estate
  • Surviving spouse inherits 100% of real property if = to $100,000 or less,
  • With real property worth more than $100,000, you, as the spouse, inherit $100,000 and ½ of the rest
  • Parents inherit 50% of intestate real estate
  • Parents inherit personal property after you take the surviving spouse’s share

Parent | Decedent With No Surviving Spouse or Other Descendants

If you’re a parent of a decedent who does not have a spouse or children, you inherit 100% of their assets.

Sibling | Decedent With No Surviving Spouse, Descendants, or Parents

You receive 100% of the decedent’s assets if you are the only sibling. With more than one sibling, you split assets evenly among yourself and the other siblings.

We Can Help

If you have questions about how estate administration works or need help settling an estate as the administrator, contact us at Hogan, Edwards, and Blue. We are here to help you through this process and answer any questions. Get in touch today and find out how we can help.