Knowing the basics of your will before you sign


Many people in North Carolina have received the advice that they should prepare a will, but they may not be aware of exactly why this is important. A will, also called a last will and testament, describes how you want your property to be distributed after you pass away. It can also contain recommendations for the appointment of a guardian for your minor children and lay out wishes for your burial, cremation or funeral.

Why does a will matter?

While some people may think that having a will is not important if they are not very wealthy or owners of a business, family heirlooms or other unique property, there are many benefits to taking care of your estate plan. By preparing a will, you can avoid additional complications for your family after you pass away, reduce the potential for disputes within the family and cut down on administrative expenses. The process of planning your estate, including writing a will, can also make the process faster for your loved ones and answer questions about your own final wishes.

What is an estate?

Your estate includes everything you own when you pass away, including money, retirement funds, real estate and personal property, minus your debts. While life insurance can be included in your taxable estate, it is not part of your will. Instead, you name a beneficiary for your policy, who receives the assets passed on from your insurance policy.

After you pass away, your will enters probate. Probate is the official court process for managing the transfer of assets after death. The probate court validates your will and distributes your estate as specified. Some transfers, like life insurance policies, assets held in trust and joint bank accounts, pass outside of probate. This can further cut down on time and expenses. In short, having a will makes the process easier and can even cut down on costs and delays, giving comfort to your loved ones.