Note: North Carolina law is specific in the information that may be included in a Will, the manner and methods by which a Will may be created, and the steps necessary to execute a last Will and Testament. Failing to follow any of these rules may invalidate an otherwise enforceable Will.
During a lifetime, a person accumulates property, including real estate, jewelry, automobiles, and money. What happens to those things when we die without a Will? A person who dies without a Will is referred to as dying "intestate." If you die without a Will, the state of North Carolina will determine what happens to your property through its intestacy statutes. The state will distribute property to your relatives based on these predetermined guidelines, regardless of your wishes.
Distribution of property and assets through the intestacy laws of North Carolina may not be as straightforward as you think. Did you know that under NC's intestacy statutes, in the absence of a Will dictating otherwise, a large portion of your property and assets may automatically pass directly to your children or parents rather than to your spouse? This may have a significant and potentially negative impact on your family depending on what family members have survived you at the time of your death. See N.C.G.S. § 29-14.
A Will may be updated or modified at anytime that the testator (the person who created the Will) desires. Wills are often modified by a testator when financial circumstances change, when additional property is bought or sold, when inheritances are received, or when beneficiaries or administrators pass away. It is also a good idea to update a Will after divorcing. After a divorce, all provisions relating to a former spouse will automatically become void so it is important to point these assets elsewhere to stay consistent with your overall estate plan.
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Our Charlotte based Wills lawyers are experienced with drafting Wills and other Estate Planning documents. If you have any questions regarding the material on this page, or if you would like to speak to an attorney about drafting or updating a Will or other estate document, contact us today at 704-412-1442. We can help.
A "Last Will and Testament," or more simply, a "Will," establishes how property and assets should be distributed and how additional matters should be handled in the event of your death. Probate is the process by which a Will is filed with the courts, and through which one's estate is administered and distributed to beneficiaries. A Will must have an administrator, who will be the person/entity in charge of distributing the property of the deceased's estate. If a Will does not specifically provide for an administrator, the state will appoint one.
Having a Will is beneficial, as it not only ensures that property is distributed to and divided according to your wishes, but can also have numerous other benefits, such as providing an avenue to: designate a guardian for your minor child(ren) or special needs children; establish a testamentary trust to have assets managed until a minor child reaches an age of responsibility; select the executor for your estate of your choice; better protect children from a previous marriage; and have greater control over how your estate is settled.
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People also often update or modify their estate planning documents after a move to North Carolina from another state. NC law provides that a Will that is properly entered into and executed according to the laws of an issuing state will be recognized and valid in North Carolina. However, NC has specific requirements for language which must be included in a Last Will and Testament for the document to be probated in the normal course. Without this language, difficulties can arise which may lead to expenses in the form of hiring to probate attorney to execute the document, locating out of state witnesses, and/or potentially paying for a security bond for an out-of-state Executor. As such, we often recommend that a client execute a new North Carolina Will to replace their existing document to avoid potential issue in the future.
Note: After a divorce, assets that would not normally pass under a Will through probate in NC, including but not limited to beneficiary accounts and real estate titled in certain manners, MUST be updated to remove a prior spouse or the benefit will still go to a named prior spouse beneficiary in the event of your death.
To speak with one of our Charlotte Wills and Estate attorneys regarding drafting, updating, or modifying your Will, call us today at 704-412-1442.