If a person dies with a will, the deceased’s property is distributed according to his or her requests in the will. If there is no will, property will be transferred according to state law.
PARENTS OF MINOR CHILDREN
A common misconception is under law, the spouse (husband or wife) of the deceased person will take all of the deceased spouse’s property, even if the couple has children. That is not true in North Carolina. The surviving spouse could receive as little as one-third to one-half of the deceased spouse’s solely owned property. Most of the rest will go to the children, whether or not they are minors or adults. Further, a minor child’s portion will be subject to the control of the Clerk of Court until the child reaches the age of eighteen. At that age, the Clerk will disburse all funds to the child to do with as the child pleases..
A very important reason for having a will is that a will allows you to provide for your children after your death. You may name a guardian to take care of your children in the event that both you and your spouse pass away. You can also set up a trust to handle funds for the children. Most parents would like to have the all or part of the funds held until the children reach a responsible age, rather than giving them all of the money at age eighteen. The trust can give a trustee power to disburse funds for the children’s support, health and educational needs prior to the date when the principal of the trust is given to them.
MARRIED WITH NO CHILDREN
Again it is a common misconception that when there are no children, the spouse will inherent all of a married person’s property. Again, this is not the case. If the deceased’s parents are alive, the parents will take a portion if there is no will.
PARENTS OF OLDER CHILDREN
If a child of sound mind over the age of eighteen is to receive property from a deceased parent who dies without a will, he or she will receive it regardless of whether he or she is mature enough to wisely handle the inheritance. We have all heard stories of eighteen or nineteen year old children squandering their inheritances. A will enables the parents to have funds held in trust for their children until they reach a suitable age, say "21" or "25". While the funds are held, provisions can allow funds to be used for the child’s welfare and education.
MARRIED PERSONS WITH ESTATES VALUED AT $675,000.00 OR MORE.
By setting up simple trusts in wills, substantial inheritance tax savings can be achieved through proper estate planning. In 2001, a married couple could pass up to $1.35 million dollars tax free with proper planning and documents.
Under state law, in the event of the death of a single person without children, the deceased person’s property would go to his or her parents. If the parents are deceased, property will pass to the brothers and sisters. Often it is the wish of single persons to leave property to persons other than relatives. A will allows them to do so.
GIFTS OF SPECIFIC PROPERTY AND CHARITABLE BEQUESTS
A will allows a person to leave specific items, such as jewelry or other personal items or specific tracts of real estate to named individuals. It will also allow a person to make gifts to charitable organizations, such as churches.
A will allows you to best protect your spouse and children, to decide who inherits your property, and to help reduce inheritance taxes.