A will or a “last will and testament” is one of those things you know you need to have but often put off creating it (or updating it). The thought of preparing or updating your will may make you feel uncomfortable, but having your will in good order ensures that all arrangements will be handled well when you pass away and it prevents your family from dealing with legal tangles. A last will and testament helps protect your family and property, and enables you to decide where you would prefer your assets to go in the event of your death.
A will can be used to:
- leave property for other assets to people or organizations
- name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
- name a trusted person to manage property you leave to minor children, and
- name an executor or the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out
You will is considered valid when signed in front of two witnesses and has the signatures of the witnesses. In North Carolina, it’s not necessary to notarize a last will and testament. However, you may want to have your will notarized as it does make your will “self-proving” and will speed up probate.
A self-proving will is accepted by the court without contacting the witnesses who signed it. This is important if the people signing your will are not close relatives or friends who can’t be easily found when the time to probate your estate comes. To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses need to go to a notary and sign an affidavit that proves your identity and that you’re fully aware that you’re signing the will. You should name an executor who will carry out the provisions in your will after your death. You should pick someone you trust to carry out your wishes. If you do not name someone as executor in your will, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.
In North Carolina, if you die without a last will and testament, your property will be distributed according to “intestacy” law which states that your property will be given to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. Your grandchildren or your parents will get your property if you don’t have a spouse or children. The list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and your spouse’s relatives. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.
When you draw out a will, be sure to make clear how your assets and property should be dispersed and how burial and funeral ceremonies be handled. A will is considered as a timesaver, and it will save your loved ones lots of headaches and misunderstanding. Contact McIlveen Family Law Firm so we can help you prepare your will properly.