For most people, the foundation of any estate plan begins with creating a Last Will and Testament. Although you may eventually expand your estate plan to include a wide variety of additional estate planning tools and strategies, your Will should remain an important part of your estate plan. If you are creating a Will for the first time it is always best to work closely with an experienced North Carolina estate planning attorney to ensure that your Will is well drafted and executed properly. In anticipating of your first meeting with your estate planning attorney, consider the following “10 Questions to Ask Yourself When Planning a Will.”
- Who should you appoint as your Executor? People often make the mistake of simply appointing a spouse/adult child/parent as the Executor of their Will without giving the matter any thought. Your Executor, however, oversees the entire probate of your estate which requires a certain degree of financial and legal acumen. Your Executor must also have the time and dedication required to perform the job correctly.
- Do you want to waive the bond requirement for your Executor? When someone serves as the Executor of your estate the court typically requires the individual to post a bond. Thee bond protects the estate from any mismanagement or intentional misconduct by the Executor. As the Testator, however, you have the option to waive the bond requirement.
- What items do you want to leave as specific bequests? Do you have family heirlooms or other assets that you wish to leave as direct gifts to family members or loved ones? If so, you should make a list of those items and the intended recipients.
- Who will your beneficiaries be? While most of your beneficiaries may be easy to name, once you sit down and think about it you may find there are more than you originally thought. Making a list ensures that no one is forgotten and makes it easier to make decisions regarding the disposition of your estate assets.
- Do you want to leave specific monetary bequests or divide your estate proportionately? Once you have made all the specific bequests you intend to make, the residue of your estate can be gifted in specific dollar amounts or divided proportionately. For example, if your remaining estate is valued at $60,000, you might give $30,000 to one beneficiary and $10,000 gifts to another three beneficiaries. You might also prefer to simply divide your estate with one half to a beneficiary and the remainder to be divided equally among several other beneficiaries.
- Do you want to make any charitable gifts? Gifting to charity can be accomplished in a number of ways, some of which may benefit you while you are alive and/or benefit your estate with regard to taxes your estate might owe. Be sure to let your estate planning attorney know if you plan to make any charitable gifts.
- Do you need a Guardian for minor children? Your Will is the only opportunity you have to tell a judge who you would appoint as the Guardian for your minor children if one is ever needed.
- Will you need to create additional estate planning documents immediately because you have minor children? A minor child cannot inherit directly from your estate. Therefore, if you plan to leave assets to provide for a minor child you will need to decide who you wish to manage those assets and how you wish to leave them in your estate plan. Most people choose to create a testamentary trust that will activate in the event of your death. The person you appoint as Trustee of the trust will then manage the assets until your child reaches the age of majority.
- Do you want to include a No Contest clause? A “No contest clause” is a provision in your Will that can prevent someone from inheriting at all from your Will if he/she chooses to challenge the validity of your Will. States differ considerable in if/how they enforce these clauses so be sure to consult with your estate planning attorney if you wish to include a no contest clause.
- Who should have a copy of your Will? Your estate planning attorney should retain a copy of your Last Will and Testament as should your Executor. Beyond that, it is up to you to decide who receives a copy.
If you have additional questions about estate planning in the State of North Carolina contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at The Law Offices of Cheryl David by calling 336-547-9999 to schedule an appointment.