When a married North Carolina resident dies, their surviving spouse is entitled to a defined share of their real and personal property and to receive support payments during the administration of the estate. Such rights are available to the surviving spouse whether or not the deceased spouse leaves a valid will, including one that would transfer a different share of their property to, or completely disinherit, the surviving spouse.
Many ,” which means they die without any valid will. Others leave a valid will, but the will does not provide for the disposition of their property. In either case, the property which is not transferred pursuant to a valid will passes according to North Carolina’s intestacy laws.
The surviving spouse’s intestate share depends on whether the deceased spouse is also survived by any child, any “lineal descendant” (meaning, the child, grandchild, etc. of any deceased child(ren) and/or any parent:
When a married North Carolinian dies with a valid will, even a will that would transfer some of their property to their surviving spouse, or dies without a valid will, the surviving spouse has a statutory right to override the terms of the will or their right to an intestate share, whichever is applicable, and to take instead an “elective share” of the deceased spouse’s property, provided that the surviving spouse has not previously waived that right in the prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. To take the “elective share,” the surviving spouse must file a claim for their elective share within (an executor or administrator) is formally authorized.
The elective share is a percentage of the deceased spouse’s “Total Net Assets” reduced by the “Net Property Passing to the Surviving Spouse.” Calculations of “Total Net Assets” and “Net Property Passing to the Surviving Spouse,” which can be complicated, are made pursuant to the detailed provisions of the elective share laws.
The applicable percentage of Total Net Assets used in determining the surviving spouse’s elective share depends on the duration of their marriage to the deceased spouse. The applicable percentage ranges from a minimum of 15% when the marriage lasted less than 5 years to a maximum of 50%, when the marriage lasted for 15 years or longer.
Another option available to the surviving spouse under North Carolina’s laws is to take neither their intestate share nor their elective share, as described above, but instead to take either:
Like other states, North Carolina has laws that provide for payments from the deceased spouse’s estate to the surviving spouse to cover their necessities. This helps the surviving spouse continue to cover necessities while the assets of the estate are likely to be “tied up” in the probate process.
If the surviving spouse has not previously waived their rights in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement and
If you have questions about, or need legal assistance in connection with, the rights of a surviving spouse or any other aspects of estate planning and administration in North Carolina, contact us at Kelly & West and arrange for a free consultation.
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