Wills in North Carolina
A last will and testament is an essential document that helps individuals settle their estate. The contents of a will dictate what happens to your assets and who will take care of your children once you pass away.
In North Carolina, a will can allow you to:
- Name a guardian for any minor children
- Designate beneficiaries to your property
- Appoint a personal representative to manage your estate, including your final wishes
Creating a will is not as simple as writing your intentions on a piece of paper. In order for a will to be formalized, you will need to sign it in the presence of two reliable witnesses, who will also need to sign the document. Wills do not have to be notarized in North Carolina, but doing so can confer additional protections.
Properly validating a will can avoid disputes of authenticity during the probate process. Any objections over a will’s legitimacy can delay or even prevent the distribution of assets and the honoring of your wishes.
It is critical that you have a valid will in place. Passing away without a will can result in your estate being subject to the state’s intestacy laws, which dictate that your property be split amongst your most immediate surviving relatives. Any specific intentions you may have had for your property will likely not be honored.
Our team can evaluate your goals and ensure that your will properly addresses them. We can also assist in confirming that will is formalized and sufficiently protected from any potential objections. When updating your estate plan, we can assist in modifications to an existing will or the creation and validation of a new draft.
What is a Trust?
Trusts can be an extremely useful tool in estate planning when used in conjunction with a will. Like with a will, a trust can allow you to dictate what happens to elements of your estate after you pass away. Unlike a will, trusts are private, and assets placed within them are protected from probate.
Trusts have numerous advantages, including:
- Protection from probate and taxing. Assets can potentially be lost to probate, either as a result of getting entangled in disputes or as a means to repay outstanding debts. Property placed in trusts are almost always protected from probate. Larger estates can also be subject to estate taxes, but assets placed in trusts are excluded from estate valuations.
- Greater flexibility and control. There are numerous types of trusts, and the tool can be tailored to accomplish your targeted objectives. You can choose to “trigger” the transfer of assets when certain conditions are met. For example, you may want to give your minor child a significant inheritance when they come of age. Specifically designed trusts can also facilitate special needs planning and other circumstances requiring careful management of financial assets.
- Privacy. Ugly conflicts in probate are a matter of public record, potentially subjecting your loved ones to unnecessary and unwanted scrutiny. You may also understandably wish to keep the nature of your bequeathals out of the public eye. Trusts are private affairs, and any arrangements made are kept between you, the trustee, and the beneficiary or beneficiaries.
Trusts can work together with a will to form a robust plan that will protect your family. A will can be used to name your personal representative and guardian to your minor children; it can also serve as a catchall to distribute any property not placed in a trust. You can then place as many or as few assets in your trust or trusts to facilitate more direct, reliable, and private inheritances to your loved ones. Our estate planning services in Raleigh include identifying what types of trusts and arrangements make the most sense for your situation.
Advanced Healthcare Directives and Powers of Attorney in North Carolina
Do you have a plan in place for what would happen if you suddenly become incapacitated? When someone becomes unable to communicate as a result of injury or illness, others will need to make critical and urgent decisions about their medical care.
While they are being treated or recovering, others still will need to manage a person’s financial affairs. Bills still have to be paid, and businesses still need to be run.
If you were to become unable to advocate for yourself, who would make these decisions on your behalf? Would anyone have legally enforceable authority to act in your stead?
Powers of attorney can be used to name representatives to make decisions for you, with many arrangements only “activating” in the event you become incapacitated. Medical powers of attorney specifically handle decisions involving healthcare. You can also formalize advanced healthcare directives to give specific instructions on what type of care you would prefer to receive.
Financial powers of attorney can vary wildly in scope and take on responsibilities that you define. You might prefer that your power of attorney only perform basic financial maintenance like paying bills or fielding phone calls. If you have significant business interests with pressing needs, you might choose to give them greater authority to advocate on your behalf.
Choosing powers of attorney is a big decision that requires careful consideration. We can help you evaluate potential candidates, ensure the necessary documents are validated, and that any instructions relevant to their responsibilities are clear and enforceable.