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How Long is the Process of Writing a Will?

Wondering about the process of creating a will?

Writing a Last Will and Testament is a highly personal part of creating an estate plan. This legal document indicates your last wishes for after your death and can help protect your family’s future. Because of its importance, people often feel overwhelmed when considering the creation of their will.

Many believe that a valid will requires complex legal language and clauses that cover every possible contingency. In reality, the legal requirements for wills are simple. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help you better understand the legal processes behind writing wills and ensure that all of your estate planning documents meet requirements according to North Carolina laws.

An attorney can advise you on how long the careful planning process of writing a will might take for your particular situation and walk you through every step.

Steps Involved in Writing Wills

The length of time it will take to write and finalize your will depends on the complexity of your estate. For example, a Last Will and Testament for a simple estate won’t take as long to draft and finalize as an estate with significant assets or complicated trust funds.

Regardless of the size and intricacy of your estate plan, you’ll follow similar steps to create a legally valid will.

Step 1: Review and Add Up Your Assets

Your will must account for every part of your financial life. As such, it’s necessary to thoroughly examine your assets, debts, and property before putting pen to paper.

Common assets a will might account for include:

  • Real estate
  • Stocks, bonds, and other investments
  • Business stakes
  • Money in bank accounts (any bank account in your name, both savings and checking)
  • Retirement accounts
  • Personal property
  • Other financial accounts

Step 2: Designate Beneficiaries

Once you have an idea of your finances and property, the next step is naming beneficiaries, or heirs, for each of your assets. These individuals—whether they’re minor children, friends, family members, or charitable organizations—will receive the named assets only after the estate has been settled and its debts have been paid.

Step 3: Draft Your Will

Once you’ve tallied up your property and identified your beneficiaries, the writing process can begin. In order to ensure that your will holds up in probate court, it’s best to have an estate planning lawyer help you craft the legal language or at least review it before finalizing.

Step 4: Finalize Your Will

The process of drafting wills does not need to be overly complicated. North Carolina law outlines the requirements for wills to be valid.

The statute simply states that:

  • The will must be in writing.
  • The person creating the will (the “testator”) must be an adult and must be of sound mind.
  • The testator must sign the will document (either in the testator’s own hand or at the testator’s direction).
  • The testator must have two witnesses sign the will and attest that they observed the testator—of sound mind—signing it.

There is no requirement that you send your will to the court for it to be properly executed upon your death. You also don’t have to notify your named beneficiaries about the will.

Step 5: Name an Executor

It is advised that you name an executor to oversee your estate when you pass. You should inform the executor of their role, inform them of the existing will, and let them know where to find the master copy along with any other important documents related to your estate plan.

Benefits of Having a Will

Not only does having a Last Will and Testament give you some peace of mind, but it can also make the process after your passing go more smoothly for your family members and loved ones. Here are some ways a will benefits both you and your heirs.

Makes Your Wishes Known

Some people are concerned with whether their loved ones will know exactly what they want to be done with each of their assets and belongings when they pass. A will makes your wishes clearly known to your family as well as to the court.

Expedites the Probate Process for Your Loved Ones

Probate is the court process that most estates – particularly large estates – go through when a person dies. It can be lengthy, costly, and – since court dealings are a matter of public record – it’s not very private. Probate is often stressful and exhausting for the loved ones of the estate holder.

Since your wishes are clear in the eyes of the probate court when there’s even a simple will present, this will help the probate process begin sooner and proceed more efficiently after your passing.

Minimizes the Possibility of Family Feuds

When someone dies without a will, particularly when they leave behind a reasonable amount of assets, their closest relatives can quickly start to disagree on what should be done with the person’s estate. Most people don’t want one family member fighting with another, relationships going sour, or legal issues in the family after they pass. That’s why a will is a great tool to make clear what you’d like done when you’re gone.

Other Important Estate Planning Documents You Should Consider

A comprehensive estate plan is often necessary to ensure your wishes are honored, your loved ones are cared for, and your wealth doesn’t get drained during the probate process.

Here are a few crucial estate planning tools that can help you create the estate plan you want:

  • A revocable living trust can secure specific assets and property to pass directly to your heirs and avoid probate court altogether.
  • A living will details your wishes and preferences with regard to medical treatments you want to be administered should you become incapacitated.
  • Power of attorney designates a trusted individual to handle your affairs should you become incapacitated.

Consult an Estate Planning Attorney to Protect All Your Assets

There is no way to predict how long it will take to write and finalize a will. A comprehensive will must evaluate your assets, liabilities, and property. Depending on your financial records and the extent of your holdings, this process may take weeks or months on its own. In general, the greater a person’s assets, the longer it takes to write a will.

Finalizing a will is a relatively simple process by comparison. For a will to be valid, a notary must simply observe the testator sign the will, along with the witnesses. If you’d like more information about the process behind writing and finalizing a will or other important papers in the estate planning process, call a dedicated attorney at Cary Estate Planning today.

Author Bio

Paul Yokabitus

Paul Yokabitus is the CEO and Managing Partner of Cary Estate Planning, a Cary, NC, estate planning law firm. With years of experience in estate and elder law, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including estate planning, guardianship, Medicaid planning, estate administration, and other cases.

Paul received his Juris Doctor from the Campbell University School of Law and is a North Carolina Bar Association member. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among the “Best Attorney in Cary” in 2016 and 2017 by Cary News and Rising Star in 2020-2023 by Super Lawyers.

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