For most people, their largest and most valuable asset is their family home. A house can represent a lifetime of memories spent with children and grandchildren, so it is understandable that a person would want to ensure it remains in the family after they pass away.
To accomplish this goal, it is crucial to have a detailed estate plan that specifically outlines your wishes for the house after your death. The simplest way to accomplish this is to create a valid Will. Crafting a detailed Last Will and Testament can establish who you want to inherit your home when it goes through the probate process.
The state’s complex inheritance laws define the legal process for assigning ownership of a person’s property once they pass away. The first question that a probate court will ask is whether the decedent has a valid Will. If the answer is no, the court will follow the processes outlined by intestate succession laws.
North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 29 defines the state’s intestate laws, which govern how property is distributed if a person dies without a Will. However, the nuances of these rules are not widely understood by those without a legal background in trusts and estates law. For instance, many people do not realize that the court will provide equal shares to all of the decedent’s children and their surviving spouse. This often requires a family home to be sold in order to equally distribute the profits, and can become even more complicated in the case of second marriages or blended families. Therefore, a person who wants their children to inherit their family home can accomplish these wishes by creating a Will before their death.
Intestacy rules only apply if a person dies without a valid Will. In short, a Will is a way to avoid the intestacy rules and distribute your property the way that you want after you die. Accordingly, it is essential to be as specific as possible when creating a Will.
Be sure to list the address of the home in the Will. Use language such as “my son John” instead of just “my son” to describe who you want to inherit the home. Additionally, it can be helpful to include statements that specifically disinherit people that you do not want to receive certain property. As described in the intestate inheritance laws above, a surviving spouse will retain a property interest in a home. Including language in your Will such as “my wife Nancy receives no right to the home” can make your intentions clear and help ensure that your wishes are respected.
When a person dies without a Will, their spouse and all of their children obtain equal shares in the value of their home. Understandably, this is not an ideal outcome for many people. If you want your home to go a specific child after your death, having a valid and clear Will is the best way to achieve this goal. A Will allows you to avoid the state’s messy intestate succession laws and to ensure that your wishes go into effect after your death. For more information on securing the inheritance of your property, speak with a knowledgeable attorney.