The North Carolina intestate succession act determines the asset allocation where a North Carolina citizen dies without leaving behind a valid will. The given law also determines the members who have the right to share the proceeds in case of a wrongful death trial verdict or settlement.
The beneficiaries in a wrongful death case remain the same even if the deceased leaves behind a will. In North Carolina, any surviving member of the family, even if estranged and willfully kept out of the deceased person’s written will, can still rightfully share the proceeds from the wrongful death claim.
A Summary of the Surviving Family Members’ Share of the Proceeds in a Wrongful Death Claim
If the deceased was in a marital relationship, and has a:
1. Surviving spouse, no surviving children, or grandchildren; and has no surviving parent: The entire share of the wrongful death proceeds are for the spouse.
2. Surviving spouse, no surviving children, or grandchildren; and has surviving parent(s): The initial $50,000 are for the spouse, and the remaining share of the proceeds from the wrongful death are shared between the surviving parent(s) and the spouse.
3. Surviving spouse, one surviving child or grandchildren: The initial $30,000 are for the spouse and the remaining share of the wrongful death proceeds divided in half between the surviving child and grandchildren and the spouse.
4. Surviving spouse, two or more surviving children or grandchildren: The initial $30,000 plus 1/3 of the remaining share are for the spouse and 2/3 of the remaining share of the wrongful death proceeds goes to surviving children and grandchildren.
If the deceased was single at the time of wrongful death:
1. The deceased has surviving children or grandchildren: The entire share of the wrongful death proceeds goes to surviving children and grandchildren.
2. The deceased has surviving parent(s) but no children: The entire share of the wrongful death proceeds goes to the surviving parent(s).
3. The deceased has surviving sibling(s), but no surviving parent; and no children: The entire share of the wrongful death proceeds goes to surviving sibling(s) and their children.
4. The deceased has no surviving parent(s), sibling(s), children, or grandchildren: One-half of the proceeds is for paternal grandparents but, if not surviving, then to paternal aunts, uncles, or their children. The remaining one-half is for maternal grandparents, but, if not surviving, then to maternal aunts, uncles, or their children.
If One of the Claimants of Wrongful Death Proceeds is a Minor
If any rightful claimant of the share of wrongful death proceeds is a minor (under 18 years), then the minor’s legal guardian must file an action for approval of the wrongful death settlement by the court.
Minor children’s share in the wrongful death proceeds can also be put into annuities to ensure that the funds earn interest for the minor child over time. This also allows the family to divide case payments and protects the child from the responsibility of handling the total case payments when he or she turns 18.
Who can File a Wrongful Death Claim in North Carolina?
Only the personal representative of the deceased can file a claim for wrongful death, either as an executor named by the deceased in the will, or as an administrator if the deceased did not leave behind a will.
The personal representative is the only one with the right to file this claim. All others, be it the beneficiaries, survivors, or heirs, are excluded from this right. Mostly, a surviving parent or spouse is the designated personal representative.
Even if there are no assets in the deceased’s estate to distribute, opening an estate that names a personal representative is essential to file a wrongful death claim.
The Order in Which the Proceeds are Allocated
During the litigation in a wrongful death lawsuit, the personal representative is responsible for payment of the necessary expenses, excluding the attorney’s fees, that the deceased’s estate may incur in bringing the action. After the recovery, by trial verdict or settlement agreement, payouts are in the following order:
1. Payment of the expenses incurred by the estate
2. Payment of the attorney’s fees
3. Payment of the burial expenses, and hospital expenses not exceeding $4500
4. Remaining amount distributed among the beneficiaries according to the intestate succession act
Contact us in North Carolina for Qualified Wrongful Death Lawyers
Because North Carolina law comes with a statute of limitations, it is prudent to seek legal counsel quickly if you have lost a loved one because of someone’s negligence. At Appleton, Shapiro & Washburn we can help you find out if your case can be filed as a wrongful death action and what you must do next.
Our experienced wrongful death attorneys are skilled at dealing with wrongful death lawsuits and will spare no effort to battle it out in court for the victims of negligence. We offer free and confidential initial consultations for all wrongful death cases. We stand by our commitment of No Financial Recovery for You, No Legal Fee. Call at 800-752-0042 to discuss your case with one of our attorneys today, or fill up a contact form online to schedule a meeting.