The law can not allow property to hang ‘in limbo’, it must find an owner for the property.  When someone passes away with a will (dies testate), the will determines who that owner is.  Though this is not the only purpose of a will, it is one purpose.  When someone passes away without a will (dies intestate) the state’s law must provide who will be the owner of the person’s property.  This is called the “intestacy statute”, though it is actually a series of statutes, and in North Carolina it is found in Chapter 29 of the General Statutes. A “Testator” is someone who makes a will.  A person who has a will, when they die, is said to have died “testate”, i.e., with a will.  Someone who dies without a will dies “intestate”.  Each state has a set of laws, consisting of both statutes and judge-made law (court rulings), that determine what happens to the property and debts of someone who dies ‘intestate’.  Generally speaking these laws are fairly inflexible, and those left behind must follow them regardless of what the person who has died ‘really wanted’.