Writing a Will in North Carolina? Avoid These Six Common Mistakes

If you are an adult in North Carolina, you should have a customized will. It is the most foundational estate planning document and it provides a significant amount of clarity for you and your loved ones. Nonetheless, a recent survey found that fewer than 50% of Americans have a will. One issue holding people back is that many do not know where to start when writing a will.

The good news is that creating a will does not have to be overly complicated. You can go a long way toward protecting yourself and your family by avoiding some common errors. Here, our Charlotte estate planning lawyers highlight six of the most common mistakes to avoid when writing a will in North Carolina.

1. Do-it-Yourself Wills

Do-it-yourself (DIY) projects can be quite rewarding, but it is generally not the right option for a person who is drafting their first will. If you have never written a will before, it is best to leave it to a professional. A will is an important legal document and it is essential that yours is drafted and completed the right way. You do not want to leave your family members with any unnecessary risk of confusion or conflict.

2. Failing to Tell Anyone About the Will

When you write a will, make sure you trust loved ones about it—or at the very least, where to find it. An alarming study published in 2019 estimates that 10% of Americans who have wills have not told anyone where the document is actually located. During an already challenging time, you do not want your family and loved ones to be scrambling, trying to track down a will that they may not even be entirely sure exists. You have the right to keep sensitive information private, but it is a good idea to tell people how and where to find your will.

3. Not Signing the Will

There are certain legal requirements to ensure that a will is valid in North Carolina. In our state, you should always be sure to sign your will. Generally speaking, it is also a best practice to sign the document in front of witnesses. That being said, the state does allow for people to attach a ‘self-proving’ affidavit to their will. Under North Carolina law (NC General Statutes § 31-11.6), a self-proved will is one that comes with written testimony attached. It can make the probate process a little bit easier.

4. Adding Illegal or Ambiguous Terms

The overriding purpose of a will is to ensure that your selected beneficiaries are able to inherit their share of your money, property, and assets. A will gives you power over what will happen to your possessions. To ensure that things actually work out as planned, it is imperative that your will is:

  • Legally valid; and
  • Clear and unambiguous.

If the will contains unlawful terms, key sections of it may not be executed. If a will is confusing or ambiguous, it may not be interpreted correctly. An experienced North Carolina estate planning attorney will help you draft a proper will.

5. Assuming a Will is Always the Best Way to Distribute Assets

Another common mistake with wills is assuming that using one is always the best way to pass on money or property. While a will is often an effective way to transfer assets to your heirs, it is not always the most efficient or cost effective option. You may benefit from using an alternative estate planning strategy, such as setting up a trust. An experienced estate planning lawyer will review your financial circumstances and your goals to determine the best strategy for your case.

6. Failing to Review and Revise a Will on a Regular Basis

Your will should be reviewed after all major life events, including marriage, divorce, and the birth of a child or grandchild. It is also recommended that you review your will every year or two to confirm that it is not outdated. An outdated will no longer effectively achieves your objectives. Make the simple changes necessary to protect yourself and your family.

Schedule a Confidential Consultation With a North Carolina Estate Planning Lawyer

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, our North Carolina wills and trusts attorneys are diligent, solutions-centered advocates for people and families. We can help you put the right plan in place for your objectives. Call our firm now or contact us online for a confidential review and evaluation of your case. With office locations in Monroe, Mooresville, and Charlotte, we serve communities throughout the entire area, including in Matthews, Indian Trail, Concord, Locust, Pineville, Fairview, and Unionville.