Many people think of a will as the way to give assets to people upon their passing, and it is true that making bequests is one of its primary functions. According to North Carolina law, a testator has the power to distribute all real estate and personal property that he or she owns at death. You can exercise this authority by devising specific assets to certain individuals; your will can also include provisions for how the remainder of your estate will pass to other beneficiaries.
However, there is much more you can do through your will that you may not have even imagined; in fact, there are certain issues you should make a point to address based upon the goals you intend to achieve. If you do not include the proper language, the end result could contradict your wishes for how you want your final affairs to be handled. While it is important to consult with a North Carolina wills and estate planning attorney regarding the details, an overview of the relevant issues may be helpful.
- Name Who Will Handle Your Final Affairs: One of the most critical functions of your will is appointing a person as executor to carry out your wishes, manage your assets, handle distributions to beneficiaries, and take on all tasks necessary for estate administration. In addition, you should also consider naming a successor executor in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to serve.
- Recommend a Guardian for Minor Children: If you have minor children, it is critical that you include information on who you would like to act as guardian for their personal needs and financial matters. North Carolina law on testamentary recommendations provides that, if the parents have made a declaration of guardian of minor in a will, the guardianship court must give substantial weight to their wishes. Parents are presumed to know the best interests of their children, which is a primary consideration in appointing a guardian.
- Pour Assets into a Trust: If you created a trust as part of your estate plan, you probably funded it with real estate and/or personal property at the time of execution. Still, when you acquired additional assets after creation of the trust, they would be in your name as an individual – not the trust. Through a pour over will, you can transfer any assets you personally own into the existing trust. The transfer occurs by operation of law, so you officially own nothing upon your death and your estate will not go through the probate process.
- Reduce the Potential of a Will Contest: You can include a “no contest” clause in your will, which basically states that any beneficiary who disputes the document will get nothing if he or she takes legal action. An example would be contesting the will on the grounds that it is void under North Carolina’s law on validity of wills because of issues with signing or witnesses. Courts will generally enforce a no contest clause unless there are legitimate reasons, backed by evidence, that the will should be declared invalid.
Trust a North Carolina Estate Planning Lawyer to Guide You in Will Creation
There are many other objectives you can accomplish through a well-crafted will, but it is important to work with experienced legal counsel regarding a comprehensive estate plan. For more information, please call 704.864.6751 or go online to reach the Gastonia, NC offices of Mullen Holland & Cooper P.A. Our estate planning attorneys serve clients in Gaston County, Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina, so we are prepared to guide you in making informed choices.