What is a last will and testament?


An estate refers to someone’s net worth and includes that individual’s property and assets. Debts and obligations factor into an estate, as well. When someone passes away in North Carolina, questions may arise about who inherits the estate’s assets. A last will and testament could provide the answers to such questions.

How a will works

A will is a contract drawn up by someone referred to as the “testator.” This will provides instructions about how to divide assets among beneficiaries. A will requires the legal “opening of an estate,” which is done in probate court.

A will commonly names an “executor of the estate.” The executor acts as the administrator and handles duties, such as notifying banks about the decedent’s passing, filing tax returns, distributing assets, and more. The executor could receive a payment for his/her duties. Payment may come from a percentage of the estate. Be mindful that the estate must pay creditors before beneficiaries receive assets.

A will could also provide instructions, such as requirements to sell a property or to liquidate stocks. A will might cover matters related to a child’s care, including naming a guardian.

Points to understand about a will

Wills must be legally sound based on state law for validity. In North Carolina, a will must be signed in front of two witnesses. If the will is not valid, the court may reject it. Persons interested in drawing up a will might find working with an attorney preferable.

An heir with standing may contest a will, and success could depend on many factors. A legally sound will might be in a better position to survive challenges.

Estate planning often involves creating a will, a document that establishes directions for an estate after the testator passes away. Someone interested in writing a will may find it valuable to work with an attorney.