I am the niece that was raised by my aunt and named as co-executrix of her will. The other executrix was her daughter that predeceased her. Her daughter has five adopted adult sons that were bequeathed monetary amounts from this estate. Are they entitled to any additional assets or property if no specific instructions are so stated in the will? What are my legal rights under North Carolina Inheritance Laws?
2 Answers from Attorneys
There is a will so if the will is otherwise valid, the will is controlling. Your aunt's assets are dispersed as per her will.
I do not understand how there can be no instructions in the will. If the will was properly drafted by an attorney it should contain any specific bequests and then contain what is called a residue clause stating that your aunt wishes any other property, whether real or personal, to be distributed as follows ... and then the will outlines what happens.
Many people are surprised to learn that a parent is under no obligation to leave anything to his or her children. So the fact that your aunt adopted five boys means nothing if the will says that your aunt leaves all her assets to charity or someone else so long as the will was properly drafted and executed and your aunt was not mentally incompetent when she made the will.
If the will, for whatever reason, is deemed invalid, then of course the 5 sons would share equally in any property owned by your aunt since they are considered the same as natural grandchildren of your aunt by virtue of their adoption and the death of their mother.
As for your inheritance rights, you have none unless you were either formally adopted by your aunt or equitably adopted and for whatever reason the actual adoption did not go through. Just being raised by the aunt is not enough for equitable adoption. However, your aunt has a will and assuming its valid, the aunt could have made a bequest in your favor. Did she do that? If not, then there is no point in you challenging the will unless you have some kind of claim that you were adopted.
I agree with Ms. Hunter. If your aunt's will meets the technical requirements for a will under North Carolina law, that will controls how her assets will be disbursed. If she made a specific bequest to you in her will, then you have rights to that gift. If not, you do not have any inheritance rights unless you were legally or equitably adopted. I would suggest consulting with an attorney who regularly handles probate matters such as this one in order get gain a fuller understanding, based on the actual text of the will, its compliance with NC law in terms of being a valid will, and any issues of adoption.