One of the wonderful freedoms you have as a citizen of this great nation is the ability to determine how your property will be distributed and to designate who will receive your assets at your death. One of the essential estate planning tools to take advantage of this freedom is your last will and testament. Do you have a will? If so, when was the last time you reviewed it to ensure it is up to date?
Do you know that if you die intestate (without a will) as a resident of North Carolina, the laws of our state determine who receives your assets? That’s true. For example, if you die intestate leaving a spouse and two children, your spouse will receive $60,000 of personal property and one-third of your remaining assets. Your children receive the remaining two-thirds of your estate. That may or may not be what you desire. Are your children minors and in a position to manage an inheritance? Is one-third of your estate adequate to meet the maintenance needs of your spouse? As you can see, the intestate laws of North Carolina are by necessity inflexible and in many cases will not correspond with your wishes or your family’s needs. You may be equally surprised at other beneficiary distribution rules specified in the state intestacy law.
You don’t want your legacy to be an unintended one or to have unintended consequences, such as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s estate. We celebrate the legacy he created with the civil rights movement each year, but there is also a lesser known legacy he left behind by not having a will. Since he died intestate, there have been multiple lawsuits against his estate, as there have been with many other individuals, famous and not so famous.
But, what if you have a will? Great! Then why should you review it? Some reasons are fairly obvious:
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