Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult times in a person’s life. Having a will can help your loved ones during this difficult time by distributing your property to the people or charities you choose.
A will, or last will and testament, is a document that controls and directs the disposition of property at death.
While it is not easy to think about death or disability, one of the most important steps you can take towards protecting your family is meeting with a lawyer to discuss proper estate planning through a will, or last will and testament. A will is a document that controls and directs the disposition of property at death.
You may not believe that you have enough assets to have an “estate”, but nearly everyone has assets that he/she wants to be able to control who receives those assets at your death.
What Happens When Someone Dies?
If a person dies leaving a will (testate), they generally have appointed a specific person to be the Executor of the estate. If a person does not have a will, the court will appoint an Administrator, which is usually the next of kin of the deceased.
If a person does not have a valid will at their time of death (dies intestate), their property will be distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act, which is a formula established by law to determine how your property is divided.
What is a Will?
A will is a legal document that transfers some of the assets held in your individual name to your beneficiar(ies) when you pass away.
It also names the executor whom you want to carry out the terms of the will and a guardian for any minor children.
The executor’s duties include:
- Petitions the court to open probate and to admit the will.
- Notifies all beneficiaries included in the will, or intestate heirs, of the administration of the will.
- Collects the deceased’s assets and lists them in an inventory.
- Seeks court approval to sell any assets that might be necessary to pay debts.
- Determines and pays claims against the estate.
- Pays federal and state taxes.
- Distributes the estate’s net assets, according to the court’s order, to the will’s beneficiaries, or heirs if there is no will
- Closes the estate.
Generally, a will that was validly made in the state of a person’s domicile will need to be redone if that person moves to another state because each state has its own requirements for a valid will. A newly revised will establishes your new legal residence, provides local witnesses, establishes your executor’s qualifications to serve in the new state, and includes provisions facilitating settlement under the law of the new state.
People often think that a will controls the distribution of their entire estate. They forget that some assets are not included under its terms.
Three common methods exist by which some of your assets are transferred to your heirs after your death:
- Beneficiary designation
- Joint ownership with rights of survivorship
- Will or trust
Gifts or bequests in your will can take various forms. They can be cash or personal and real property. They can be given outright or in a trust. Here are four generally accepted ways to make a bequest.
- Specific Bequest – This is a gift of a specific item to a specific beneficiary.
- General Bequest – This is usually a gift stated sum of money.
- Contingent Bequest – This is a bequest made on condition that a certain event must occur.
- Residuary Bequest – This is a gift of all the “rest, residue, and remainder” of your estate after debts, taxes, and bequests have been paid.
Trust the NC will professionals at Alexander & Doyle, P.A. to help put you in charge of your finances, and spare your loved ones the frustration and expenses commonly associated with managing assets upon a death.
NC Wills & Estate Plans
An estate plan does not have to be complicated nor expensive, but it is essential to protect your family and your assets – failing to have one can cost a great deal, financially and emotionally.
In most estate planning cases, the best approach is through a will.
What happens if I don’t have a will?
If you do not have a valid will at the time of your death, you die “intestate,” meaning your property will be distributed according to the Intestate Succession Act. An intestate estate is administered according to NC law, which determines how your assets will be distributed.
Why not just create a will online?
Creating legal documents online must always be considered with caution:
- Using an online tool or website to craft your will may seem convenient or like it may save a few dollars here or there, but too often there are expensive consequences when people use a “form will” obtained online.
- Although the act of preparing a will may seem simple, North Carolina has a set of rules by which wills must be written and executed in order to be seen as valid. A seasoned NC estate planning lawyer can save you and your loved ones from unnecessary stress due to an insufficient or invalid will.
Advance Directive (Living Will) For A Natural Death
A will is a document that controls and directs the disposition of property at death.
An Advance Directive, or Living Will, is a directive that gives instructions to your health care providers to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging measures in certain situations. The Living Will states what choices you would have made for yourself if you were able to communicate.
Living Wills are intended to be valid in any jurisdiction in which it is presented, but places outside North Carolina may impose requirements that this form does not meet.
The Importance of an Experienced NC Will Lawyer
One of the most important things you can do for your loved ones is to have a carefully drafted will. Drafting a will requires professional judgment that can only be obtained by years of training, experience, and study. Only a practicing lawyer can avoid the innumerable pitfalls and advise the course best suited for each situation.
Example: A will drafted in a state other than North Carolina may not be valid within North Carolina. A will can be changed or added to by the testator by drafting a new will or by adding a codicil to the current will. A codicil is simply an addition or amendment to an existing will and executed with the same formalities as a will.
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