Estate Planning is the process whereby you review your personal and financial information, and develop a plan to ensure that your family is cared for, your assets are properly distributed, and their value maximized for the benefit of your designated beneficiaries in the event of your death. Without proper Estate Planning, the North Carolina “Rules of Intestacy” will govern the disposition of your property and the Clerk of Court will appoint an administrator to manage your Estate.
The Last Will and Testament is one of the most important instruments in this process. Your Will can be simple, leaving everything equally to your “natural beneficiaries”, or it can contain a complicated distribution scheme with specific and general devises to many beneficiaries of your choosing. It can leave all of your property to an Inter Vivos Trust, to be distributed according to its provisions, or provide for a Testamentary Trust that is only created at the time of your death under stated circumstances. However, in either case, it is important that it be drafted and executed in compliance with the formalities and requirements set forth in the North Carolina Statutes.
A Will should name the person you designate to manage your affairs after your death, referred to as your Executor. Your Will can also name the individuals you wish to have act as guardians for your minor children. It can set forth provisions for the care of minor children in a Testamentary Trust, and name Trustees who will be responsible for the financial management of the funds left to the children. The Will can name different people as guardians of the person of your children, making decisions as to their care and welfare, and Trustees of the Estate with financial responsibilities.
A properly drafted Will can also minimize estate and probate taxes, and help the probate process flow more smoothly and efficiently.