What Happens If You Die Without A Will In North Dakota

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended solely for informational purposes and should not be used for legal purposes.

The passing of a loved one is a challenging and emotional time.

Unfortunately, it is also a time when legal and financial matters need to be addressed. 

In North Dakota, as in most states, one of the key documents individuals use to manage their affairs after their death is a last will. 

However, not everyone gets the chance to create a will before they pass away. 

When an individual dies without a will in North Dakota, it can lead to a series of legal processes and consequences. 

This article will explore what happens if you die without a will in North Dakota.

It will also highlight the intestacy laws that govern this situation and the importance Of estate planning.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In North Dakota – Understanding Intestacy Laws In North Dakota

Intestacy laws are the set of rules that dictate how a deceased person’s assets are distributed when they haven’t left behind a valid will. 

In North Dakota, these laws are designed.

It will ensure that the assets are distributed fairly and in accordance with the decedent’s familial relationships.

It will give you information on what happens if you die without a will in North Dakota.

HeirsDistribution Of AssetsShares Of Each Heir
Surviving SpouseIf there are no surviving children:100% to the surviving spouse
Entire estate goes to the spouse
If there are surviving children:
Spouse receives the first $225,000
Spouse receives 50% of the50% to the surviving spouse
remaining estate
Children share the other 50%50% equally divided among children
ChildrenIf no surviving spouse:Entire estate divided equally
Entire estate divided equallyamong surviving children
If there is a surviving spouse:
Children share 50% of the50% equally divided among children
remaining estate
Spouse receives the other 50%50% to the surviving spouse
ParentsIf no surviving spouse or children:Entire estate divided equally
Entire estate divided equallyamong surviving parents
SiblingsIf no surviving spouse, children, orEntire estate divided equally
parents:among surviving siblings
Nieces/NephewsIf no surviving spouse, children,Entire estate divided equally
The entire estate divided equally(in the absence ofamong surviving nieces and nephews
siblings)Entire estate goes to nieces and
Other RelativesIf no closer relatives exist:The entire estate divided equally
(e.g., cousins)If there are no surviving relatives:among surviving relatives
among more distant relatives
No Heirsparents or siblings:The entire estate escheats the North Dakota
The entire estate is divided equally.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In North Dakota – Determining Heirs

The first step in intestate succession is to identify the legal heirs.

This will be of the deceased person. In North Dakota, the surviving spouse and children are given top priority as heirs.

If the decedent has a surviving spouse but no children, the spouse will inherit the entire estate.

Also, if there are both a surviving spouse and children, the estate is divided between them.

If There Is No Spouse:

If there is no surviving spouse, the next in line to inherit are the children of the deceased.

The estate is divided equally among the children.

If a child has predeceased the decedent, their share may be passed on to their children, the decedent’s grandchildren.

Thus, you get to know what happens if you die without a will in North Dakota.

Parents And Siblings:

If the deceased person has no surviving spouse, children, or grandchildren, the estate passes to the decedent’s parents if living.

If the parents are deceased, the decedent’s siblings are next in line.

The division of the estate among siblings can become complex if some are alive and others have passed away.

It leads to their own heirs sharing in the inheritance.

Thus, it helps to know what happens if you die without a will in North Dakota.

More Distant Relatives:

There are no surviving parents or descendants.

North Dakota’s intestacy laws continue to look for the closest living relatives.

It may include aunts, uncles, cousins, and more distant relations.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In North Dakota – Administration Of The Estate

When someone dies without a will, the court will typically appoint an administrator.

He will handle the distribution of assets.

This individual will be responsible for paying any outstanding debts, taxes, and the costs of administering the estate.

The Role Of The Administrator:

The administrator’s primary duty is to ensure that the assets are distributed as per the intestacy laws of North Dakota.

They must identify and contact all legal heirs and assess the estate’s value.

It also manages the sale of assets, if necessary, to cover debts and costs.

Debts And Taxes:

One of the important responsibilities of the administrator is to identify and pay any outstanding debts and taxes.

The debts could include mortgages, medical bills, and other obligations.

Failing to address these debts can result in legal complications.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In North Dakota – The
Probate Process

In North Dakota, the probate process for individuals who die without a will, also known as dying intestate, is governed by state laws and statutes.

Below is an overview of the probate process in North Dakota for individuals who pass away without a will:

1. Initiation Of The Probate Process:

When a person dies without a will in North Dakota, the probate process is initiated in the county.

This is where the decedent resided at the time of their death.

An interested party can start probate by filing a proper petition with the appropriate county’s district court.

2. Appointment Of An Administrator:

In cases of intestacy, the court will appoint an administrator to oversee the estate.

The administrator is typically a family member or another interested party.

However, the court’s decision is based on a priority order specified by North Dakota law.

This order typically prioritizes surviving spouses, children, and other close relatives.

3. Inventory And Appraisal:

The administrator’s first responsibility is to create an inventory of the decedent’s assets and determine their value.

This inventory and appraisal are submitted to the court and serve as the basis for estate distribution.

4. Notice To Creditors And Beneficiaries:

The administrator is required to provide notice to all known creditors and potential beneficiaries of the estate.

Creditors have a specified period, typically three months, to submit claims against the estate.

5. Payment Of Debts And Taxes:

Before distributing assets to heirs, the administrator must pay the decedent’s debts.

It includes funeral expenses, outstanding bills, and taxes. 

This includes any state and federal estate taxes that may be due.

6. Distribution Of The Assets:

After all debts and taxes are paid, the remaining assets will be distributed among the heirs of decedents.

This will be according to the rules of intestate succession outlined in North Dakota’s laws. 

The order of distribution typically prioritizes the surviving spouse and descendants.

And it may vary if there are no surviving spouses or descendants.

7. Final Accounting And Closing The Estate:

The administrator is required to provide a final accounting to the court detailing all transactions, distributions, and expenses. 

Once the court approves the final accounting and is satisfied that the estate has been handled correctly, the estate can be closed.

8. Disputes And Challenges:

Disputes and challenges can arise during the probate process, especially when there are multiple heirs or complex family dynamics. 

Creditors, potential beneficiaries, or other interested parties may contest the distribution of assets. 

These disputes can also prolong the probate process and may require legal intervention.

9. Legal Counsel And Assistance:

Many individuals find it beneficial to seek the assistance of an attorney experienced in North Dakota probate law when navigating the probate process for intestate estates.

Legal guidance can help ensure that the process is handled efficiently and in compliance with state laws.

It’s important to note that the specific details of the probate process in North Dakota can vary based on the unique circumstances of each case.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In North Dakota – Challenges And Delays

Dying without a will can create delays in the distribution of assets and potential challenges.

It can further complicate an already emotionally trying time.

Family Disputes:

Inheritance disputes can arise when there is no will in place.

Family members may disagree on the distribution of assets, leading to legal battles and emotional strain.

Having a clear will can help prevent such conflicts.

Lengthy Process:

The probate process without a will can be time-consuming.

It may take months or even years to resolve, causing delays in asset distribution to beneficiaries.

A well-structured will can streamline this process.

Minor Children And Guardianship:

Creating a will is of utmost importance for individuals with minor children.

It allows for the designation of a guardian.

When there’s no will, the court will determine the child’s best interests and appoint a guardian.

The Importance Of Appointing A Guardian

Without a designated guardian, the court will have to make this critical decision.

This can lead to uncertainty and legal proceedings to determine the child’s living situation.

Factors Considered:

When appointing a guardian, the court considers various factors.

It will include the child’s age, the potential guardian’s relationship to the child, their ability to provide a stable environment, and their willingness to take on the responsibility.

Estate Taxes And Liabilities:

Estate taxes and liabilities are another significant consideration when someone dies without a will.

In North Dakota, there are specific rules that apply.

Estate Taxes:

North Dakota does not have a state estate tax, but the federal estate tax may still apply to larger estates.

Without a will or proper estate planning, taking advantage of tax-saving strategies.

It could reduce the estate tax burden can be challenging.

Handling Debts:

The administrator will be responsible for paying off the deceased person’s debts and liabilities.

Failing to do so can result in legal complications and claims against the estate.

What Happens If You Die Without A Will In North Dakota – Avoiding The Consequences

It is clear that dying without a will in North Dakota can lead to a series of complex legal processes and potential family disputes. 

However, there are steps you can take to avoid these consequences.

Create A Will:

The most effective way to ensure your assets are distributed as per your wishes is to create a legally valid will. 

A will allows you to specify who will inherit your assets, who will be the guardian of your minor children and more.

Explore Trusts And Other Estate Planning Tools:

In addition to a will, you can explore other estate planning tools like trusts.

It can provide additional benefits in terms of asset protection and tax efficiency.

Seek Legal Advice:

Consulting with any experienced estate planning attorney may help you navigate the legal intricacies of estate planning. 

They can assist in creating a comprehensive estate plan, ensuring that your wishes are carried out effectively.


Dying without a will in North Dakota can lead to a series of legal complexities and potential challenges for your loved ones. 

It’s essential to understand the intestacy laws of the state and the consequences of not having a will. 

Taking the time to create a will and an estate plan can provide peace of mind.

Also, it ensures that your assets are distributed per your wishes. 

Terry L. Crump

Leave a Comment