Those in Smithfield who have yet to tackle their estate planning are not alone; a number of American adults seem to be hesitant to begin the process of planning how their end-of-life are to be handled. Indeed, study data shared by the American Association of Retired Persons shows that as much as 60 percent of American adults do not have a will. Many may not know this, but the state has laws which detail how one's assets are to be dispersed if they die intestate (without a will). Understanding exactly what the state's intestate succession guidelines are may help one see what limitations their lack of estate planning may impose as to who can benefit from their assets.
North Carolina's intestate succession guidelines begin in Section 29-14 of the state's General Statutes by detailing what one's surviving spouse is entitled to. If a decedent has no surviving descendants, then their spouse is entitled to all of their real property. If they are survived by one descendant or their parents, then the spouse's interests in their real property is reduced to one-half (with the remaining going to the aforementioned parties). If there is more than one surviving descendant, then the spouse's share is reduced further to one-third, with the remaining portion divided equally amongst the surviving descendants.
The surviving spouse would also inherit all of a decedent's personal property if they have to surviving descendants. If they do have surviving descendants, the surviving spouse is entitled to the first $60,000 in value of the personal property, and then one-half or one-third of the remaining balance of value if the decedent has one or two or more descendants, respectively. Their entitlement increases to the first $100,000 in value if the decedent is survived only by parents, and then one-half of the remaining value.