With over forty years of experience, attorney Landon A. Dunn has learned that there is no such thing as “one size fits all” in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, and probate. One option that is available in many estates is the Widow’s Allowance, sometimes also referred to as the Statutory Allowance, Spousal Allowance, Year’s Allowance, or the Spousal Year’s Allowance.

If you have recently lost a spouse, Landon will listen to your concerns and answer your questions with compassion and sound legal guidance, and help you determine if you should apply for the Widow’s Allowance in North Carolina.

What is the Widow’s Allowance?

The Widow's Allowance has been part of North Carolina Law since 1796. Its purpose is to protect the surviving spouse from financial hardship while the estate of the deceased spouse is settled—which can be a long period. Both men and women who are surviving spouses can claim the Widow’s Allowance.

The Widow's Allowance is the release of part of a deceased person’s (decedent’s) funds after his or her death to meet the surviving spouse’s immediate needs. The amount is set by state law and not by the decedent’s will. The money is available whether the Decedent died with or without a will.

The Widow's Allowance often has a higher priority than other claims against the estate such as judgments, liens and unsecured claims from creditors—but not always. It is intended to allow the surviving spouse to maintain their standard of living and to meet living expenses until the decedent’s estate is settled. It is not intended to increase the surviving spouse’s share of the estate.

In North Carolina, you must claim the Widow's Allowance within one year of your spouse’s death. The Widow's Allowance can provide you with ease of mind during the difficult time of a loved one’s passing—contact Landon to make sure you don’t miss out on this benefit.

How Much is the Widow’s Allowance?

In North Carolina the amount that can be released to a surviving spouse is up to $60,000 from the personal assets of the decedent. (For example, a checking account held only in the decedent’s name with no right of survivorship would be a personal asset of the decedent.)

In North Carolina, the amount received from the Widow's Allowance may, or may not be, deducted from the surviving spouse’s share of the estate. The surviving spouse does not have to claim the Widow’s Allowance; he or she may choose to decline the Widow's Allowance by signing a waiver. Speak to an experienced North Carolina probate attorney to discuss your rights and whether you should consider signing a waiver.

How Do I Request the Widow’s Allowance?

There are a number of requirements to get the Widow's Allowance. You and the decedent cannot have been estranged, separated, or divorced prior to their death. The decedent must have resided in North Carolina, or you as the surviving spouse must have resided in North Carolina at the time of their death.

You must file a “Petition for Year’s Allowance” with the clerk of court for the county in which the decedent lived at the time of their death. The petition must be filed within one year of the death. You will also need to provide other documentation, such as proof of your marriage and a death certificate. Speak with a North Carolina probate attorney to learn of any other requirements to request a Widow’s Allowance in your case.

Can a Surviving Spouse Be Disqualified from Receiving Widow’s Allowance?

A surviving spouse may be disqualified from receiving the spousal allowance if he or she:

  • Signs a waiver waiving his or her right to the Widow's Allowance.
  • Waived his or her right to the Widow's Allowance in a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
  • Has been determined to be a "slayer" under the North Carolina slayer statutes because they pled or were found guilty of killing the deceased spouse.
  • Was legally separated from the deceased spouse at the time of their death.
  • Is deemed to have "willfully abandoned" the deceased spouse prior to the deceased spouse's death.

A surviving spouse is also disqualified from receiving the Widow’s Allowance if the marriage between the deceased spouse and the surviving spouse is determined to be invalid.

What Assets Can Be Claimed with the Widow’s Allowance?

The Widow's Allowance usually involves assets such as money in a bank account in the decedent’s sole name. Often it is useful if an automobile is registered in the name of the deceased. In this case, the value of the vehicle will be determined, and this amount counted against the Widow's Allowance as the title is transferred to the surviving spouse.

Real estate such as land or buildings cannot be used to satisfy the Widow's Allowance. Certain other assets are unavailable to become part of the Widow’s Allowance; contact a North Carolina probate attorney to learn what assets can be used to satisfy the Widow’s Allowance in your case.

What Happens to the Widow’s Allowance in a Small Estate?

Sometimes there is not enough personal property in the estate to cover the entire $60,000 Widow's Allowance. In these cases, the clerk of court will enter a deficiency judgment in the estate. If additional personal property assets are found later, these can be used to reach the $60,000 threshold.

Landon A Dunn, Attorney At Law can help you apply for the Widow's Allowance in North Carolina and help with any aspect of estate planning, probate and estate administration. Call us at 704-688-0505 or use our online contact form.