Last Will and TestamentWe are often asked if a person really needs a Will. The answer is “yes, without a doubt.”

There are numerous reasons to have a Last Will and Testament including the following:

1. If you have minor children, you can name a guardian for your children in the event that you pass away.

In general terms, a guardian is the person who your children will live with and is the person who will make parental decisions for your children until they reach age 18. Unfortunately, our law firm has handled many lawsuits in Raleigh where relatives are fighting over whom will have custody of the children when the parents have passed away. Naming a guardian in your Will can go a long ways in preventing unnecessary litigation and argument between your surviving relatives.

2. Without a Will, your children will generally receive their inheritance in full on their 18th birthdays.

This is true even if they are still in high school. You can prevent this from happening by including a basic testamentary trust within your Will. You can require that a child’s inheritance be held until the child reaches a certain age (for example, age 25) or held until your child graduates from college. In addition, you can determine who should manage your child’s inheritance. This person is called the trustee. This person can be a family member, a close friend or a trusted advisor. If you do not name a trustee, then the child’s inheritance will likely be held by a North Carolina Clerk of Court and turned over to the child at age 18. Who really wants that to happen?

3. Who do you want to be in charge of your estate when you pass away? This person is called the executor.

Clients often ask our law firm to handle this responsibility for them because they are trying to avoid a fight among family members. You can name almost any individual, bank or trust department to manage your estate when you pass away. What happens if you do not name someone to handle your estate in a Will? Unfortunately, the State of North Carolina will choose a person for you. And, you might not like the choice. One line in a Will can avoid this result.

4. What if you are married with two children . . . doesn’t your spouse automatically inherit everything you have?

Not so fast. In North Carolina, your spouse does not automatically inherit everything you own unless you have a Will. In very general terms, your spouse generally receives the first $60,000.00 in non-real estate assets and a share of your real estate. The remainder is shared with the children. To say this can create a huge mess is an understatement, no matter the age of your children. We have handled many estates in Raleigh where we were positive that the decedent wanted everything to pass to the surviving spouse. But, North Carolina requires that you sign a Will to make sure this occurs.

Speak to an Estate Lawyer in Raleigh

If our attorneys can help with any of your North Carolina estate planning needs, then please do not hesitate to call 919-615-2473. We can promise you that the cost of obtaining a Will is some of the best money ever spent. You owe it to your family. Request a case review today.

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Terrell joined Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, L.L.P. in 1994. His general practice includes civil litigation, general business representation, family law and workers’ compensation, as well as wills, estate planning, estate administration, and estate litigation.

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