By Joseph Hurwitz
As an estate planning attorney I am often asked by my clients, “What can be done to protect myself and my loved ones?” In this series, Planning for the Future, I will explore different topics and methods you can use to prepare for any surprises life may bring. The most basic and most powerful tool is known as the ‘will’.
Many people see a will as something that is only for those who are wealthy, but the truth of the matter is wills are necessary for everyone. Wills are your way to decide what happens to your assets. Assets are all the different types of property, belongings, and monetary accounts you could own. Whenever someone passes away, their estate must pass through a Probate court proceeding. In the State of North Carolina if someone passes away without having a will, the state laws dictate what will be done with that person’s assets. These laws lay out how the assets will be distributed, including giving it to the State if there are no heirs. The only way you can determine what happens to your possessions is by having a will.
Wills can also be used to create ‘trusts’ that are made to protect and provide for others (more on this subject later in this series). Wills can be as simple or as complex as you would wish. The only limitations on what a will can accomplish are based upon the laws of the state the will is created in.
It is important to update your will when there are major life changes such as births, deaths, marriages, divorces, and as needs change. This can be as simple as creating an addendum, also known as a codicil, or even drafting a new will.
Wills prevent arguments and conflicts within a family, it assists with taxation issues, and it provides a peace of mind. Legally, wills are one of the ways that guarantee that your wishes are followed and that you will be protecting your grieving loved ones from having to make decisions in a fragile state of mind.
When seeing an estate planning attorney it is best to have a list of any specific items that are to be treated specially, all accounts (financial, insurance, polices, etc.), and deeded or titled property. No matter how simple or complex a will is, it is the first thing anyone should look into when planning for the future.
This article does not create an attorney-client relationship. This article is not legal advice and if you have any legal questions or concerns you are encouraged to seek the counsel of a licensed attorney in your area.
Joseph Hurwitz, Attorney at Law – Lake Lure – 828-436-5478