What is a Will and What are the NC Requirements Regarding Wills?
A will is a document that helps you protect your family and your assets following your death. A will can be used to leave property or other assets to those you choose—people or organizations. You can name an executor in your will who will ensure the terms of your will are properly carried out. A trusted individual can be named in your will to act as a guardian for your minor children. You can also name a person to manage any property left to your minor children.
In the state of North Carolina, the following requirements must be met for a will to be valid:
- The person making the will must be 18 years or older.
- Wills must be made on “hard copy,” meaning it must be on paper rather than audio, video, or another type of digital file. While handwritten (holographic) wills are permitted under NC law, they are not generally encouraged and must be entirely in the will-maker’s handwriting.
- The person making the will must be of sound mind under NC Gen. Sta. §31-1
- An oral (nuncupative) will is allowed only when an individual is dying of an illness or otherwise in imminent threat of death. There must be two competent witnesses to an oral will.
- A North Carolina will must be signed in front of two witnesses, then the witnesses must sign the will in front of the person making the will. Witnesses must be “disinterested” parties who do not stand to benefit from your will. Holographic wills do not require witnesses.
- While a North Carolina will does not need to be notarized to be legal, you can make your will “self-proving” by having it notarized. A self-proving will can make the probate process go more quickly because the court will accept the will without contacting the witnesses. A self-proving will requires you and your witnesses to sign before a notary public.
Legal Definitions Regarding North Carolina Wills
The following terms are associated with wills:
- Testator—The person making the will
- Beneficiary—The person receiving an inheritance through a will
- Bequest—A provision in a will leaving property to another person
- Heir—A person designated under state statute who is entitled to inherit from you
- Intestate—When a person dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate
- Executor—The person you choose to be in charge of handling the distributions in your will
- Probate—The legal process under which the court approves the terms of your will and oversees the distribution of your assets
- Guardian—The person you choose to be legally responsible for your minor children
What Are the Risks of Not Having a Will?
If you do not have a will, your estate will go through probate and the court will determine who will receive your assets, based on state statute. For example, if you have a spouse and one child, your spouse will receive the first $30,000 of your personal property with the remainder of your personal property and real estate split between your spouse and your child.
- The courts will generate legal expenses your estate must pay
- If you are married and have children from a prior relationship, a large portion of your estate could go to those children rather than your spouse.
- The assets of a single person who dies without a will could go first to the parents of the decedent, or siblings if the parents are not alive—even if you do not get along with your siblings.
- If you have a long-time partner, your death could leave that partner in a very difficult position since state laws do not recognize unmarried partners.
- Without a will naming a guardian for your minor children, the court will choose a guardian—one that you might not be in favor of.
What Does an Attorney for Wills in Raleigh Do?
An attorney for wills in Raleigh from NC Planning can assist you with drafting your will, helping your family ensure your wishes are properly carried out, and aiding in any legal proceedings following your death. Having an experienced will attorney can do the following:
- Your attorney can help you build a specific will that is tailored to you and your family.
- Since a poorly prepared will can be worse than no will at all, the cost of a will is considered minimal.
- Common mistakes made by those who prepare a will without an attorney are avoided. Most people are unaware of the state statutes that make a will legal, plus a single mistake could potentially invalidate your will.
- Your will attorney can ensure your assets are distributed as per your wishes.
How to Select the Best Attorney for Wills in Raleigh
If you are seeking an attorney for wills in Raleigh, you might look on the Internet or you might choose to ask friends, family members, or co-workers who have used an estate planning attorney. The NC Planning attorneys strive to provide you with exceptional service as well as a thorough understanding of your journey with us. We want to make estate planning as easy as possible for you—from your first point of contact throughout our relationship. The NC Planning attorneys would love a chance to get to know you and tell you how we are different from other North Carolina estate planning firms.
How NC Planning Will Help You Plan for the Road Ahead
At NC Planning, we work hard to build strong client relationships, working with clients from all walks of life. We do more than talk about client care—we live it from the time you step into our office, throughout our relationship with you. At NC Planning, we believe in open, honest communication, along with responsiveness and accountability.
Proper planning makes it easy for you to plan for the worst-case scenario, ensuring your loved ones are taken care of after your death. Your NC Planning lawyer will work with you to fully understand your goals, then help you develop a foundation estate plan that will help you achieve those goals. We are here to help! Contact us today in our Raleigh, NC office or our Cary, NC office to schedule an appointment.