For those without an estate plan, it may seem like good news that the State of North Carolina has prepared one for you at no cost. The Legislature drafted statutes for people who die without a will based on how the representatives perceived the majority of North Carolinians would want their property distributed.
North Carolina’s provided estate plan is referred to as “intestacy.” Under the laws of intestacy, the estate of a person who dies without a will or trust passes to biological relatives under the traditional family model. The amount of property and the number of living biological relatives determine how the property is distributed. Essentially, intestacy is a one-size-fits-all way to divide up property in an era where no two families are alike. Like most back-up plans, intestacy is almost always a bad idea. But there are a couple of scenarios where it is especially dangerous:
Minor Children or Grandchildren
Failure to make a will when you have minor children is problematic at best. In such circumstances, a guardian must be appointed to manage any property they receive from your estate. These proceedings are expensive and time consuming to conduct. They require court appearances, annual accountings, bond premiums, and guardian’s commissions that might have been avoided with a relatively simple estate plan. More importantly, your child or children are paying for all of this out of their share of the estate until they reach the age of majority. Whether you hire an attorney or not, there is no valid excuse for failing to protect your children.
The North Carolina intestacy statutes do not treat partners in same-sex relationships as possible beneficiaries when distributing the estate of a partner who dies without a will. Generally, under intestacy laws, a surviving partner will be left with nothing upon the death of a partner. This is true irrespective of the length and intensity of the relationship between the deceased partner and the surviving partner. Until North Carolina recognizes same-sex marriages, a comprehensive estate plan is essential for same-sex couples.
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