Have you ever asked yourself what will happen to your family and assets after you die? There’s a common misconception that only the wealthy need to prepare a Will. The truth is, almost everyone needs a Will. Just like you took care of your family and estate while you were alive, you can continue doing so even in death through a properly structured Will.
Putting together a Will can be a hassle on your own, and it’s important to have an experienced estate planning attorney on your side to guide you through the intricacies of Will planning. We understand our clients’ needs vary, and that’s why we custom craft your estate plan according to your unique needs.
What Is A Will?
A Will is a legal document where you specify clear guidelines and instructions on how your estate will be managed in the event of your death.
Why A Will Is Important?
1. Peace of mind
While alive, you have to take care of your family and oversee your assets. Unfortunately, this can change in the blink of an eye. Your death can leave your family unprepared if you don’t have a plan. Knowing that you have clearly outlined and explained how your family and estate should be taken care of and managed will give you much-needed peace of mind.
2. To Provide Legal Clarity
There are no restrictions on how long your Will should be. Therefore, you can include as much detailed information as possible. If any of your wishes are unclear or disputed after your death, referring back to the Will can remove any ambiguity. To fulfil your Will, you – the testator – have to name a trustee or executor who oversees the execution of the Will. Additionally, your Will clearly outlines the distribution of your estate.
3. To Avoid Potential Disputes
Dividing your assets after you die comes with its challenges and heightened emotions. Your will clearly defines your assets’ divisions and the direction your family is to take, which can avoid any disputes or misunderstandings.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. I Co-own Property, What Now?
Co-owned property is usually held in joint tenancy with survivorship rights, which means the surviving co-owner will automatically own any assets you jointly owned in the event of your death, and they will not be handled in the probate process.
2. Can I Change My Will?
The law allows you to make amendments as much as you wish. However, the law will only recognize the one in existence at the time of your passing as the relevant and valid one. When editing your will, consider essential and life-changing events such as marriage, divorce, death of a beneficiary or trustee, to mention a few. For peace of mind, it’s a good idea to review your will every two or three years.
3. When Will My Children Receive Their Inheritance?
Any children under the age of 18 cannot receive any assets. A trustee is mandated to manage the children’s inheritance till they reach 18, after which they can receive their share of the estate. However, there are unique situations which can apply that may allow them to directly receive assets before reaching 18.
You can also specify that funds be held in a trust and distributed to your children as they hit certain ages, or other milestones.
4. Should I Include Everything in My Will?
No. Certain assets are better off excluded. Some of them include:
- Jointly owned assets
- Assets in a trust
- Property with already named beneficiaries such as bank accounts and life insurance policies
- Personal wishes and desires such as funeral arrangements
- Any gifts such as to your spouse
5. Should I Have Witnesses and a Lawyer Present?
In North Carolina, for an attested written Will, you are required to sign your will in front of at least two witnesses, and they must sign in your presence according to NC General Statute § 31-3.3. There are also less common wills such as handwritten Wills, oral Wills and joint Wills, which each have their own requirements.
Challenges Surrounding A Will
A Will can be challenged in a number of different ways. Some of the most common are:
- Lack of testamentary/mental capacity
- Forgery and fraud
- Disagreements either between beneficiaries or between beneficiaries and the executors
- Sideways disinheritance
- The absence of a date, purpose, and signature from the testator
- Jurisdictional conflicts like when you move to another state that has varied statutes from your previous state.
Such issues commonly arise when a Will is prepared in the absence of legal counsel. To reduce the likelihood of such contention, it’s important to have your Will created by an experienced North Carolina estate planning attorney.
Contact Our North Carolina Estate Planning Attorneys
Preparing is a Will can be challenging, but our estate planning attorneys have the know-how and experience to guide you every step of the way in preparing a Will and planning for the future. When you’re ready to get started with protecting your family’s future, reach out to us to schedule a consultation!