A will is an opportunity to plan for those you love. Unfortunately, too many people put off this important planning or try to handle matters on their own, only to leave their loved ones to cope with the repercussions during an already stressful time.
At the Brady Cobin Law Group, PLLC, we understand the value of planning for individuals and families. An estate plan and a properly written will can help ensure that your wishes are honored and that your loved ones receive your legacy in the ways you intended.
For more than 35 years, our knowledgeable Raleigh will lawyers have helped people across North Carolina make smart plans for their estates. We’ve built a reputation for providing high-quality, thoughtful estate planning and advice to our clients. Contact our Raleigh estate planning law firm today to talk about how we can help you protect your family and your legacy.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Make a Will?
Strictly speaking, you do not need a lawyer to make a will, but it’s always a good idea to have one involved. Wills can be more complicated than they seem at first glance. Your will needs to comply with North Carolina state law and, if properly written, it should distribute property while maximizing the inheritor’s benefits. This can be more difficult than it seems.
A lawyer can make sure that a will complies with any state laws and that it is properly validated. This is particularly important if the will is contested. If there is any question about the validity of the will, other parties can contest the will and potentially invalidate it. If the will is invalidated, the estate may be divided according to North Carolina law, and it’s unlikely that state law will divide the property the way the writer of the will intended.
A lawyer also understands how to structure a will and how to plan to minimize taxes and other issues with the estate. It’s possible to write a simple will that gives property to someone. It’s much more complicated to write a will that minimizes the taxes on property and maximizes the benefits for the inheritors. A lawyer can help you determine whether the property should be put into a trust or another mechanism to benefit those you care about.
If the will needs to be modified or revoked in the future, a lawyer can help. At any stage in planning, drafting, or modifying a will, an attorney can help you create a clear document that does exactly what you want.
What to Include in a Will
There are several topics that should be addressed when writing a will in North Carolina. These include:
- Assets. Assets include money in bank accounts, investments, favorite possessions and heirlooms, and many other types of property. A will can give clear guidance to inheritors, and it can help avoid family conflicts.
- Real estate. Real estate is often the most valuable possession that a person owns. It can be expensive and time-consuming to transfer it to someone else, even when included in a will. However, some types of property cannot be included in a will, such as property that is jointly held with a spouse who holds a right of survivorship. Whether the property needs to be included will depend upon the circumstances of ownership. A lawyer can help you determine whether a piece of real estate needs to be included in a will. A lawyer can also recommend whether it would be better to put the real estate in a trust to minimize taxes.
- Beneficiaries. A will should name the people or organizations that will inherit under the terms of the will. It’s good to include addresses and other contact information for the beneficiaries. This will make notification easier for the executor.
- Executor. A will should name the executor – the person who will administer the estate. The executor will oversee the estate, handle its business, and take care of its debts. Ideally, a will also can name a backup executor who can serve in case the named executor is unable to carry out his or her duties.
- Guardianship decisions. For young families, guardianship information is an important part of a will. If you have minor children, a will should include the names and information of people who will be the children’s guardians if you pass away. It’s important to make these decisions as soon as you start a family and to have them included in the will. If they aren’t, a court may appoint a guardian.
Steps for Creating a Will in North Carolina
A will is the final product of many different discussions and decisions. Keep in mind that for many important decisions, you may want to discuss the matter with the people who will be affected. They can give you insight and opinions that may be helpful in drafting the will.
When you are ready to create a will, you will need to:
- Determine what property should be included and who should receive it. Be as specific as possible.
- Select a guardian for your children if needed.
- Select an executor who will oversee the estate.
- Meet with a knowledgeable Raleigh will lawyer to ensure everything is in place and to draft the necessary documents.
- Sign the will in the presence of at least two witnesses and have them sign it.
- Have your will notarized. Although this step isn’t required in North Carolina, it will help authenticate your will and prove it is valid in court.
- Store your will in a safe location where it cannot be tampered with. Your lawyer may also store your will in a secure location. Tell the executor where to find your will. If your will is destroyed or lost, your plans will go with it.
What Happens If You Die Without a Will in NC?
Dying without a will is called “dying intestate.” If you die without a will in North Carolina, your estate will be divided according to state law. The division will depend on whether you have a spouse, children, and immediate family members.
Dying without a will can lead to confusion and disagreements among the survivors. Don’t run the risk of leaving your estate in the hands of the courts. Document your plans in a will.
Don’t Put Off Seeking Legal Advice About a Will
At the Brady Cobin Law Group, our experienced probate attorneys understand what goes into making an effective will, and we know how important having a well-drafted will is to a family. Our compassionate attorneys have years of experience planning for all types of estates, and we have the resources and the knowledge to help you plan for yours.
Whether you need to write a will for the first time or want to modify an outdated will, our attorneys can help. Contact our law firm today for a consultation. Our firm handles a wide range of elder law, estate planning, estate administration, and litigation matters.
I made an appointment to have my will done. Not the most pleasant thing to do but I was totally comfortable and treated with genuine care. I asked a lot of questions and they were patient with me. I can’t say enough about how kind and thoughtful every one with whom I had contact were towards me.