While the idea of planning for death is uncomfortable, it’s important to spare your loved ones the problems and questions that can arise from trying to distribute your assets and property without a will. A will is a legal document that takes effect after your death and functions as a blueprint for how you want your property distributed. In the state of North Carolina, anyone who is at least 18 years old and mentally competent may make a will. Here’s why it’s important to create a will.
It’s about more than money
A will is a vital part of your estate plan. If you die without a valid will in place, your property will be divided according to your state’s laws, which may mean your assets are distributed in ways you wouldn’t choose. A will gives you the opportunity to make your expectations clear. Regardless of how many or few assets you own, it’s important the distribution is handled the way you choose.
Make specific designations
Ask yourself who you want to inherit your property. Are there specific items you intend to leave to certain people? Choose an executor to carry out the instructions in your will. It’s important to choose someone you trust to do this. It should be someone who will follow your instructions, regardless of personal feelings or pressure from family members. It’s also a good idea to ask the person you plan to choose, as they may not want the responsibility of managing your estate.
Know your family will be cared for
A will spells out your wishes about how your minor children will be cared for until they reach adulthood. Specifying a guardian in your will means there will be no indecision about who will care for your children and how your children will be provided for. It’s also a way to make provisions for ailing or disabled adult children, aging parents and pets.
Keeping your will up-to-date
It’s important to review your will periodically, especially if there are changes such as marriage, divorce, birth of a child, a move to another state or a substantial increase in your income or property value. This way you don’t accidentally disinherit future children or newer spouses. You can update your will as often as you feel is necessary. It should never be considered one and done.
Do you need a lawyer?
Creating (and later updating) your will doesn’t have to be complicated. There are two easy ways to make a will. An attorney is trained to avoid the legal pitfalls that could result from a do-it-yourself will. Credit Union members can benefit from LGFCU’s low-cost Estate Planning Essentials Program. Call or visit your local branch to make an appointment with a local attorney who understands state laws. This approach is especially helpful if your estate plan is complicated.
However, you don’t have to use a lawyer to create a will. There are online services that allow you to prepare a will with or without legal advice, depending on the package you choose. If your will is simple and you’re not using a local attorney, be sure to fill in all the blanks, print your documents and complete all required steps. This will ensure your will is legally upheld when the time comes.
Creating a will can be uncomfortable, but waiting will almost certainly make it more difficult for your loved ones later. It’s sensible to plan ahead and document your wishes now.
The advice provided is for informational purposes only. Contact an attorney for additional guidance.