Estate planning attorneys in North Carolina run across a lot of misconceptions when it comes to wills. To help set the record straight, we offer some examples of what a will can do for you and why it is a good idea for everyone to establish a will.
Understanding the Power of a Will
At its most basic, a will is a document that provides instructions for distributing your assets after you pass away. It can be a very simple document, or it can be quite complex to accomplish many different functions. In your will, you can:
- Name an executor who will ensure that obligations are fulfilled and assets are distributed appropriately
- Specify certain instructions about gifts or debts
- Designate the individuals who should receive particular assets as beneficiaries
- Provide gifts to charitable organizations or special causes
- Name guardians for minor children
- Establish a trust to hold assets for minor children
- Create a pet trust to provide for care for animals
- Pour assets into a trust to avoid probate
It is important to understand that on its own, a will cannot prevent your estate from going through the probate process. However, if you create a revocable living trust to hold assets and some of your property does not make it into that trust, a “pour over” clause in a will can ensure that those assets move into the trust. The estate would essentially show no assets and, therefore, does not need to be probated.
What Happens if You Don’t Have a Will?
If you do not have a valid will at the time of your death, the intestate succession laws of North Carolina determine who will receive many of your assets. These laws are explicit about which relatives will inherit certain shares of the property.
Additionally, in the absence of a will, the court will determine who should handle your estate and who assumes the role of guardian for your children. When you allow the legal system to handle these critical functions, the outcome may be completely at odds with your preferences.
Why You Should Have a Will
There are a few situations where it is especially crucial to establish a valid will. First, if you want to leave property to a partner who is not your legal spouse, you should memorialize that designation in a will. Furthermore, if you wish to distribute assets to anyone who is not a close family member, you need to specify your wishes in a valid will; otherwise, the intestacy laws are likely to pass those assets to someone else.
If you have minor children or plan to have children, guardianship and trust provisions in a will can ensure that they are protected in the future. Also, if you have created a living trust, your estate could still end up in probate unless you have a will with pour-over provisions. Finally, it is essential to name the executor in your will, who will oversee the handling of your property once you pass, or the court may give that role to someone inappropriate.
In conclusion, the main reason every adult should create a will is that it provides peace of mind for both you and your loved ones. We live in an uncertain world, but knowing that you have provided a measure of security for the future allows you to face whatever comes with confidence. If you already have a will, it is wise to review the provisions with an attorney every few years to make sure you have accounted for changes in the law or your situation.
Talk to a North Carolina Estate Planning Lawyer to Create the Right Will for Your Situation
The attorneys at Salines-Mondello Law Firm, PC, understand how to help clients assess their needs and create wills and other estate planning tools tailored to specific goals. We can review your options and put a plan in place to prepare you and your loved ones for the days ahead. Contact us today for a confidential consultation to learn how we can help.