Creating a last will and testament document is extremely important, especially if you have a significant amount of assets and numerous people who could lay claim to them following your death. Even if you do not have a great deal of property or have no particular desires as to who should receive it after you pass away, it is still a good idea to draft a will so you can make arrangements and avoid confusion.
Regardless of what you want your will to address, you should strongly consider retaining help from a Cary wills lawyer while drafting it. An experienced trusts and estates attorney could help ensure your will is clearly written and legally enforceable, so you can continue your life with security and peace of mind.
The most common use of a will is to designate which parties will receive certain assets and property after your death. If someone dies without a will, or if property owned solely in their name is not included in their last testament, their property may be subject to division based on North Carolina’s intestate succession, which prioritizes immediate family members first when distributing property
However, wills can also be used to address a number of other crucial matters, such as determining who will become the legal guardian of a decedent’s children and who will manage property willed to minor children on their behalf until they become of age. Perhaps most importantly, a will can name a specific person to be its executor, meaning they are responsible for ensuring the will’s terms are followed and a deceased person’s wishes are respected.
It is not required by law to retain legal counsel when drafting a will, however, professional legal guidance could be crucial to ensuring a will is effective and enforceable, especially if someone intends to leave a close family member out of their plans or make any stipulation someone could contest in court.
There are three types of wills a court in Cary recognize as valid, the most typical of which is an attested written will. As per North Carolina General Statutes §31-3.3, an attested written will is only valid if it is signed by the testator or a person in the drafter’s presence specifically directed to sign on their behalf, as well as two witnesses.
If applicable, a handwritten will found alongside other important papers and documents may be recognized and enforced as a valid holographic will as per N.C.G.S. §31-3.4, even without any signatures from attesting witnesses. An orally dictated will regarding what should be done to personal property immediately prior to their death in the presence of two witnesses could be recognized as well. This is known as a nuncupative will and is defined in N.C.G.S. §31-3.5.
Any type of will can be revoked at a later date by a subsequent written will, provided the old one is physically destroyed or specifically declared as invalid by either the testator or a person in their presence acting on their behalf. A local, qualified testament lawyer could offer further clarification about how to make adjustments to an existing will.
Wills are perhaps the most important aspect and the foundation with which an effective estate plan is built. They allow you to do more than just elect who will be your beneficiaries:
Wills allow you to appoint a guardian to take care of your minor children in your absence. This can include directions to the people you appoint regarding how you would want them to raise your children. Without a will, the potential for a custody feud between family members is higher. By outlining the decision clearly in your will, you save your family from the emotional headache of a court battle.
If you are married with minor children, passing away without a will can require a substantial amount of your estate to be distributed to your children instead of being distributed to your spouse, although federal law does requires any inheritance given to minor children to be held in a trust until they reach age 21.
This means that instead of your surviving spouse having complete control over the family finances and being able to do what they think is right with what you left for them, they must hold a portion of it aside, in trust, for the child’s benefit only. Proper planning can prevent this administrative and legal headache.
Your will prevents the Courts from deciding how your assets with be distributed. The State of North Carolina’s default rules intestate succession applies in the absence of a will. Oftentimes, however, the State’s rules do not align with your personal wishes. Take control of your assets and your family’s future with will-based estate planning.
While there are generally very few requirements for creating a valid and enforceable will, getting the most out of this kind of document can take some significant legal know-how. Fortunately, an experienced trust and estates attorney who has helped people ensure their wills address all their property and serve their best interests.
A Cary wills lawyer could answer any questions you have and help you get started with the drafting process during an initial consultation. To schedule yours, call us today.