Wills and Trusts
A Last Will and Testament allows you to retain control over how your assets are distributed and to whom they pass to after your death. (See Revocable Living Trust for an alternate method of planning). It is pre-planning on your part to have your affairs in order based on your wishes. If there is nothing in writing, North Carolina has essentially written your Will for you and will dictate the distribution of your estate. Every person’s plan will be different. What should be included in your Will is specific to your wishes and your assets.
In my opinion it should not matter whether you have children or not, if you are married, divorced, widowed or single or if you have a large or small estate. The reality we all have to face is that one day we will die and something needs to happen with whatever we leave behind. However, keep in mind, that not planning is absolutely a choice; it is not required by statute to have a Will in place. Having said that, I would suggest against that until you know the ramifications of not having a written plan and that you are comfortable with how your estate will be distributed when you pass.
What property can pass through a Will?
You can dispose of both your real and personal property through your Last Will and Testament. This includes your residence and vacation homes, checking and savings accounts, mutual funds and cars for example. You must always keep in mind the manner in which the individual asset is owned and whether there is a beneficiary named already on that asset.
How does property pass through a Will?
There are so many ways in which property can pass. A specific dollar amount or specific asset can be left to an individual, a group or a charity. The gift can pass automatically or with specific requirements. You can even elect to create a Trust effective at your death for the benefit of your spouse or children.
Are you planning for children?
If you have minor children, you need to nominate a Guardian to care for them after your passing. In addition, a Trust can even be created at your death so that the Guardian has funds available to care for them. In addition you can put restrictions on distribution
amounts and frequency. (See Planning for Children for more details).
Do you already have a Will?
If you already have a Will and circumstances in your life have changed, review it to be certain that it still expresses your wishes and desires. Suggestion of events that should trigger a review are divorce, death of a spouse, retirement, children are no longer minors, the addition of grandchildren or a recent move to North Carolina.