Traditional North Carolina laws that barred a spouse from being disinherited were designed to protect widowed woman from having to depend on government subsidies. Laws sought to ensure that even if a spouse was not included in the original will, they would still be eligible to receive a certain portion of the deceased’s estate. These traditional laws offered more protection to a female widow as opposed to a male. However, since their creation, they’ve been continually updated and now both genders receive fair treatment.

It can be a quite a shock to be disinherited by your spouse, especially since most people only find out about it after the death when the will is read. If this happens to you, it’s important to realize that you do have legal rights which ensure that you receive a certain portion of the deceased’s assets. What you need to be aware of is that immediate action is required on your part. As soon as you find out that you’ve been disinherited, contact a lawyer who will work to ensure that you receive the benefits that you’re entitled to.

One thing that many people are surprised to find out is that the executor of the deceased’s estate does not necessarily have the final say in how the assets are distributed. Many spouses believe that if they’re written out of the will and the executor executes the will, they will be left with nothing. Thankfully this is not the case and if you do find yourself disinherited there are steps that you can take.

How to Avoid Being Disinherited

1. Know Your Rights

Regardless of whether the spouse died testate or intestate, the surviving spouse is entitled to a year’s allowance which consists of the first $30,000 of personal property of the deceased’s estate. This allowance is made under the North Carolina law statute: N.C.G.S. Section 30-15.

This point is important to remember: it pays to know as much about your rights as possible. The more you know the more steps you’ll be able to take to ensure that you receive the maximum benefit to which you’re entitled. There are some resources on the internet which can provide useful information on your rights. However, the best way to learn about what you’re entitled to is to contact a North Carolina probate lawyer, like Hopler, Wilms, & Hanna, who will be able to provide you with the most up-to-date information and ensure that you get everything that you’re entitled to.

For example, in some situations a widowed spouse may be entitled to receive a certain portion of their spouse’s life insurance policy, even if the named beneficiary is someone else. That’s because the life insurance policy is counted among the deceased’s assets, to which every spouse is entitled a certain percentage. Even if the money is left to someone else, a spouse is still entitled to some of it. However, the larger problem is the collection of the money.

In order to receive the money, it must be recovered from either a personal representative, or someone else who is responsible for holding the assets. In other words, in order to receive this money the spouse will need to petition the courts to recover it. This can be difficult, may create more tension in the family than there already is, and may entail paying lawyer fees. However, if the amount of money to be potentially recovered is high, then the effort is usually justified.

2. Check the Time Limits for Filing

Some of the statutes have deadlines that they need to be filed by, and you should be aware of these. It’s not a court clerk’s responsibility to inform you about any of these deadlines, and if you miss them you may miss out on the opportunity to claim any assets that are rightfully yours. For example, earlier we talked about how a spouse may be able to claim life insurance payouts even if they were not left in the spouse’s name.

However, according to N.C.G.S Section 30-3.4(b), the spouse is only afforded six months by the Clerk of letters in which he or she can claim the elective share. If this deadline is missed the disinherited spouse will be unable to make a claim on those assets. Again, a probate lawyer will be knowledgeable about deadlines and will help to make sure that you submit all applications on time.

3. Talk to Your Spouse About Their Will

Of course all of these problems can be avoided in the first place if your spouse recognizes you in the will and leaves you a fair share of his or her assets. In a majority of the situations this is exactly what happens, and it’s typically only in rare situations that a spouse is disinherited. If you believe that there is a chance that this will happen to you, you may want to ask to see your spouse’s will or talk to other people in the family about it. This problem is more easily solved before a person’s estate goes into probate and changes can no longer be made.

Final Thoughts

The laws involved in the administering of an estate when a spouse has been disinherited are complex and difficult to understand. Even lawyers without probate and estate administration experience may be unqualified to deal with the intricacies of North Carolina disinheritance law. That’s why it’s always advisable to retain an experienced lawyer who can help you to make the most of your case, and get the money that you deserve.

Hopler, Wilms, & Hanna are a group of lawyers who have decades of combined experience with probate law, and they can help to sort out your case and make your life easier. Visit our website to find more about what we do, or to get into contact with us today. If you’ve been disinherited by your spouse we can help you to recover a fair share of your spouse’s assets, regardless of what the will says.

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