I’ve heard many times people tell me “I don’t need to do a Will, my spouse is just going to get everything.” Well, that may not be the case! It’s helpful to know what really happens to your assets if you die without a Will. Dying without a Will is called “intestate.” In North Carolina, we have statutes that govern how your estate is divvied up among your family members. Susan Willett, Director of Trust Services at Old North State Trust, wrote a nice article about this here: http://www.wilmingtonbiz.com/insights/susan__willett/review_my_will_why/787
And speaking of estate plans….another thing I often hear is that “I don’t have an estate, so I don’t need an estate plan.” We all have something and whatever it is, big or small, it’s still worth deciding who is going to get it rather than leaving it up to the North Carolina statutes to decide. Part of estate planning is creating your Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will, or advance directive regarding end-of-life decisions. Those concern me a lot more than who gets my stuff. I want to decide who is going to take care of me and my affairs. If you don’t make the decision, you could end up with a guardian appointed for you whom you never would have chosen. It’s critically important that you name more than one person as your Power of Attorney or Health Care Agent. I’ve seen it happen many times now that a couple did their plan, named only each other, one spouse died and the surviving spouse no longer had capacity to make new documents so he or she is left without a valid Power of Attorney. Are your documents going to survive you?
If you haven’t updated your Will and Power of Attorney in more than five years, it’s time to do it. We now live in a digital era and if your documents don’t have the appropriate provisions for managing your digital assets, your family members may not be able to get to important information stored on the web.