Other than making sure to comply with requirements for executing an attested will under North Carolina estate planning laws, you generally have a great amount of flexibility and leeway regarding what you can include in the document. As you consider the provisions you want to include, your family situation, and other unique circumstances, you can incorporate your intentions almost without limitation.
However, there are numerous legal nuances regarding estate planning concepts, administration of estates, and related factors. You might be surprised to learn that you cannot do certain things via your will, even when realizing the benefits of what you can do. A North Carolina estate planning attorney can assist with strategy and drafting, but an overview may be helpful.
Goals You Can Accomplish Through Your Will: Through consultation with your lawyer, there are multiple objectives you can achieve through a properly drafted will:
- Name Who Will Manage Your Final Affairs: One of the primary provisions in your will is the appointment of a person as executor to handle the tasks involved with estate administration.
- Take Control Over Your Assets: You can make bequests of specific assets to beneficiaries and designate individuals to receive the remainder of your estate. Without a will, your property passes to your heirs according to the laws of North Carolina – which may be contrary to your wishes.
- Eliminate the Surety Bond Requirement: In an estate without a will, the court will typically require the personal administrator to secure a surety bond to insure against misconduct in handling assets. The cost can be significant, but you can waive the requirement via your will.
What You CANNOT Do Through a Will: You will not be successful in achieving certain objectives through your will, such as:
- Cut Out Creditors: You cannot avoid your financial obligations and debts through any provision in your will, and creditors actually have priority over the interests of beneficiaries.
- Distribute Assets That Pass by Operation of Law: Real estate that is titled as “joint tenants with right of survivorship” or tenants by the entirety will automatically revert to remaining owners upon your death, so it passes outside of your will. In addition, if you have designated beneficiaries for life insurance, bank accounts, retirement accounts and related assets, these individuals take title through operation of law.
- Appoint a Guardian: You CAN name a guardian for minor children through your will, but the appointment is not automatic. Instead, a court must determine who will be guardian after reviewing the child’s best interests. However, the fact that you named a person in your will does serve as important evidence in a guardianship hearing.
Talk to a North Carolina Estate Planning Lawyer About Will Strategies
From this summary, you can see how you could overlook key details if you try to go it alone with creating your will. You could forestall your intentions through errors regarding what a will can and cannot do under North Carolina law, thereby obstructing your estate plan. For legal assistance, please contact Perry, Bundy, Plyler & Long, LLP today. We can schedule a consultation at our Monroe, NC offices to review your circumstances and advise you on your options.