Dying without a will in NC

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Latest post Wed, Apr 29 2009 4:17 PM by mariska. 4 replies.
  • Tue, Apr 28 2009 12:29 PM

    • picobearjp
    • Not Ranked
    • Joined on Sat, Apr 29 2006
    • Posts 3

    Dying without a will in NC

    I am in North Carolina. Last year, my mother-in-law passed away without a will. She verbally told both my husband (her son) and I that he was to get half of everything of hers. I have this in an e-mail from her as well. Her husband (my husband's stepfather) gave my husband just a few items. He claimed that she had no life insurance (which I do not think is true), and that her 401k could only be rolled over into his 401k. My husband was given 1 of their 3 vehicles and a boat worth about $4000. They owned a house together as well.

    I wanted to see if I contacted a lawyer, can my husband get what is rightfully his? What his mother wanted him to have? He is an only child.

    Also, if I do contact a lawyer, are the fees normally due up front, or if we win the case? I'm not quite sure how this works.

    What kind of lawyer would handle this? A probate lawyer?


    Thank you so much in advance for the help! It's much appreciated.

  • Tue, Apr 28 2009 1:13 PM In reply to

    • Ford
    • Top 10 Contributor
    • Joined on Thu, Mar 16 2000
    • Posts 12,824

    Ignore what Mom said . . .

    The law of wills exists to prohibit this kind of stuff.

    If you don't execute a will, state law has a default will that will protect the spouse and children.

    However, in a marriage, much/most of the property might be owned between the spouses such that it doesn't go into the decedent's probate estate.  For instance, a 401K likely has a beneficiary designation and will pass directly to that beneficiary.  Life insurance passes to the bene unless the bene is the estate, normally.  A house is often owned in a joint tenancy, or a tenancy by the entireties, and passes to the spouse.

    Fees in all litigation depend on where you are, and how much people want to fight.  You can spend $10k trying to get a lamp that has been in the family for 100 years, and is worth $5.

    I'd start with the court file to see what sort of accounting was made to the court, if any.  Then, consult an attorney.

  • Tue, Apr 28 2009 1:24 PM In reply to

    Re: Dying without a will in NC

    She verbally told both my husband (her son) and I that he was to get half of everything of hers. I have this in an e-mail from her as well.

    Irrelevant, meaningless and unenforceable.

    There are generally three ways that people inherit:

    1 - By the terms of a will.

    2 - By the laws of intestacy.

    3 - Non-probatable items as a survivor of joint ownership or as beneficiary/payee on death.

    When it comes to spouses, things are typically owned jointly or the spouse is listed as beneficiary or payee on death for everything.

    So you can pretty much bet that the surviving spouse legally got everything and your husband is not "rightfully" entitled to anything.

    Whatever he did get could have just been gifts and not bequests.

    Wouldn't do YOU any good to contact a lawyer. You wouldn't be able to hire him because you have no dog in the race. Your husband would have to be the client. And he would have to be prepared to pay at least a retainer up front of several thousand just to get the lawyer started.

    And, yes, it would be a probate lawyer. Wouldn't hurt to see if he can get a free consultation and review his options.

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • Tue, Apr 28 2009 1:40 PM In reply to

    • picobearjp
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    • Joined on Sat, Apr 29 2006
    • Posts 3

    Re: Ignore what Mom said . . .

    Thank you for the quick response. It is appreciated!

  • Wed, Apr 29 2009 4:17 PM In reply to

    • mariska
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    • Joined on Fri, Apr 24 2009
    • OR
    • Posts 4

    Re: Ignore what Mom said . . .

    Dear picobearjp,

    I empathize with you.  I wrote in with a situation that had some things in common with yours.

    Before death, one of my parents said, with no prompting and in front of a witness (an attorney) that I would receive a significant amount of money.  Following the death, I got nothing, my other parent got it all.

    Very little, if any of the estate would have been in probate.  Most of the estate was non-testementary- equities, insurance, pension, etc. Two properties were jointly owned, everything was jointly owned.  Surviving parent sold those properties and bought two others in a different state.  Transferred all accounts that I know of.

    I suspect undue influence and diminished capacity, but suspect is all it is, no way in the world I can prove it.  I live 3000 miles from the county where the death occurred, so without hiring a lawyer there, I don't even have any access to the will.  I certainly don't have funds for that.

    On this board, the two posters who replied to you, adjuster jack and Ford, also kindly responded to me.

    In my opinion just because it is legal does not mean it is ethical, but my opinion, like what I got is worth zero.


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