If you’re wondering how to leave assets to your family when you pass away, a will gives everyone the directions they need to settle your estate. Whether you possess wealth or a meager home of sentimental valuables, writing a will is crucial for your family’s peace of mind. It is not a complex or lengthy process to write a legitimate will. Let’s look at how to make a will in NC. 

Your Assets

Begin by thinking about everything you own. Consider your accounts, real estate, personal effects, pets, children, bonds, trusts, and digital assets. Write down everything you own. If you have a group of items going to one person, you can just name the entire category, such as “my storage unit at A1 Storage.” Later, when you write the actual will, you can say something like:

“Personal effects in my storage unit at A1 Storage go to my nephew George Perkins in entirety.”

Accounts

Ensure that you’ve named the beneficiaries on each account to match what you say in your will. If your will contradicts the beneficiary listing on your account, the beneficiary heir inherits the entire account regardless of what the will states. For now, just organize the information and who you would like to inherit.

Later, when you write your will, you can just write in plain words and simply list who you designate as heir for each account in your will (matching your beneficiary designations for each account). 

Real Estate

Consider your real estate holdings and how you hold ownership. If you have joint ownership with right-of-survivorship, then the joint owner will inherit. If you simply own jointly without right-of-survivorship, it can get a bit more complicated. 

You’ll need to talk with an attorney about how much of the house belongs to you and how best to leave it to the other joint owner. 

Personal Items

Look through your house and write down all of your property in your home and storage. You can make categories instead of naming each item separately. 

When you write your will, name each person you designate as heir for each item or category of items.

Choosing an Executor

A will lets you choose an executor of your estate. This person takes the administrative position of handling your estate after you pass away. They pay your estate and income taxes and inventory your entire estate. They also pay any creditors or bills you have due. All of this happens before the executor begins giving heirs their inheritance.

An executor needs to have character traits such as trustworthiness, organizational skills, basic math skills, and people skills. They will be the touchpoint for the probate court, your entire estate, and your family after you pass away.

When you write your will, you will write in simple language who you name as your executor.

Naming a Guardian

If you have minor children, you will need to choose a guardian to care for them and inherit the estate as a basis to do so. If you don’t name a guardian, the state will decide who gets your children. It may not be a person you would desire to raise them, so naming a guardian is crucial for your children’s sake.

Alternatively, you can name a guardian to care for children and an estate guardian to care for your estate assets and administer the estate for the children as needed. 

Write Your Last Will and Testament

You must be over the age of 18 and be of sound mind to write a will . A “sound mind” means that you do not have any limiting conditions that cause you not to think clearly enough to write your will.

There is no need for fancy legal language when writing a will, but it should be abundantly clear what you desire. After you’ve written all of your wishes for your estate, ask two witnesses to sign. NC law requires that witnesses sign the will in your presence but need not sign in the presence of each other. 

To make your will valid before the probate court without the need of the two witnesses attesting to the validity of the will before the court, sign in front of a notary. Make a few copies and store them in a safe place. 

Once you pass away, someone will need to know where to find your will. A probate judge will determine that your will is valid as long as you’ve had two witnesses sign in your presence and you’ve signed the will. The judge and your executor will use your will to determine how to pay creditors and taxes and give heirs their inheritance. 

For Your Family’s Peace of Mind

Writing a will prevents family discord. Often, without direction, family members argue over things you would never imagine. After a death, grief affects individuals in different ways. Some may become more argumentative, while others get more sentimental. To help your family on their grief journey, it’s always best to write your will before your time comes. 

Without a last will and testament, your family may struggle with how to settle your estate. A will gives directions about who inherits your accounts, property, and any valuables or sentimental items. Your digital assets may also possess value. Family needs to know how to handle digital assets, including pictures, emails, songs or books you may have written, and any copyrighted designs or ideas. 

Intestate Law

If you don’t write a will, North Carolina intestate law decides who inherits according to a long legal process that you have no say in. Spouses sometimes only inherit half of what you own when intestate law has the last say. To retain control in the decision of who inherits any assets, you must write a will.

We Can Help

If you are ready to make a last will and testament, we can help you organize your thoughts and streamline the process. Ensuring your will has the most unambiguous language and instructions are paramount to a successful estate administration after you pass. We ensure that your will includes every asset and plan for any liabilities. Our experienced estate planning attorneys work with you to make the process of writing a will simple and easy. Contact us and find out how to get started writing your will today.