It’s not often that we take the time to consider making an estate plan. Many of us tend to avoid any conversations or thoughts of death until it is standing right before us, but by then, it may be too late to create a comprehensive plan for the future.
With the sudden appearance of strange new viruses like COVID-19, making a will should be top of mind for Americans all over the country, irrespective of age. If you’re reading this, it means you understand the importance of developing an estate plan and are seeking information to help you do that. As you’re drafting your will, here are six wills dos and don’ts to keep in mind.
1. Do Make Sure Your Will Is Legal
The most important thing you should do when creating a will is ensure that it meets the criteria for being legally valid. A valid will may look different depending on the state you live in.
In North Carolina, your will must meet the requirements set in North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 31. In general, that means signing it in the presence of two witnesses who also sign it to attest that the will is yours, as well as a notary.
2. Do Get Help from a Wills and Estates Lawyer
It is in your best interest to have a wills and estates attorney prepare your will. A lawyer is well-acquainted with the legal statutes pertaining to the proper execution of a will. They will ensure your will contains all the important information you want and need to include.
It is their job to ensure your will meets legal requirements to be valid in North Carolina. Many people who attempt to draft a will on their own end up making errors that invalidate the will, such as not signing or dating it properly or not following the required procedure for having witnesses attest to it. Hiring a wills and estates lawyer can eliminate these problems.
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3. Do Choose Two Credible, Trustworthy Witnesses
Your witnesses must attest that your will is indeed your will and therefore reflective of your wishes. Choosing two credible and trustworthy people is essential, as they may be called upon when it’s time to probate the will in court.
The court may need to hear from your witnesses as it tries to validate your will. An unreliable witness could cast doubt on whether they actually signed it, whether you actually signed it, or whether it reflects your true wishes. That’s why it’s important to pick someone you know well and trust.
4. Don’t Select a Witness Who Is Also a Beneficiary in the Will
As an extension of the previous tip, you should not choose a witness who is a beneficiary in your will. This presents a conflict of interest.
In the event they are not happy with their inheritance or how you otherwise distribute your assets, they have the potential to lie or otherwise cast doubt on the validity of the will to achieve their own ends. Conversely, if they have an interest in the will, their credibility may be called into question because they stand to gain from the validation of your will.
Thus, you should avoid beneficiaries as witnesses. In North Carolina, if you select a beneficiary to attest to a written will, you must then choose two additional witnesses who are disinterested in the will. Otherwise, the beneficiary who acted as a witness will receive nothing under the will.
5. Don’t Rely on a Joint Will
You and your spouse should make wills independent of each other. It is unlikely that you and your significant other will pass away at the same time, so a joint will does not make much sense.
Even if you hold some property together, you likely don’t hold all your property together, which means you will each need to decide where your property goes.
6. Do Designate People Who Are Willing and Able to Take on Key Roles
The people you designate in your will to fulfill important roles should be willing and able to take on the responsibilities you are asking them to fulfill.
Before selecting someone as the executor of your estate, a legal guardian for your children, or a witness to your will, talk to them about your desire to choose them for a particular role. Be candid about what that role includes, as well as your preferences, values, and beliefs. They should be able to make a well-informed decision about whether they want to step into that position.
Similarly, you should take the time to learn more about them and their personal feelings, beliefs, values, and circumstances to see if they are indeed the best fit for the job.
Contact Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC to Create a Valid Will in North Carolina
As you think about the future, these dos and don’ts of creating a will can prove to be beneficial. However, there is no substitute for an attorney who knows how to prepare a valid will. Contact a wills and estate lawyer at Farmer & Morris Law, PLLC for help creating a comprehensive estate plan to ensure peace of mind for you and your family.