What happens if a person dies without a will in North Carolina?

When someone dies without a valid will, the legal term is that they died intestate.  Any property that was owned joint tenants with rights of survivorship, such as with a spouse, will pass to the surviving spouse without the need for a court process.
Any assets that the deceased owned individually go through a process called estate administration (many people frequently call this probate, although probate technically is the process of proving the validity of a will).

During the estate administration, the court will appoint an administrator (similar to an executor) to handle the estate administration process which includes paying the deceased’s debts, funeral expenses, court and administrative fees. 

Once those obligations have been settled, the remaining assets in the deceased estate will be divided will be divided as provided by the North Carolina intestate succession laws.  We’ve provided a summary of them at our North Carolina Wills & Trusts blog or you can review the statutes themselves here.