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5 Things a Newspaper Column Got Wrong about Wills in NC

While we enjoy reading the newspaper and support our local organization, we were distressed recently while reading a column about creating a Will. While the intentions were probably right, a lot of the facts were incorrect. The column was no doubt published in multiple newspapers across the U.S., and the laws surrounding Wills are different in each state. Here are some of the statements we found along with accurate information for our North Carolina friends.

The Right and Wrong about Wills in North Carolina

  • Statement: Assets go first to a spouse, then your children, then your siblings, and so on.

Fact: In North Carolina, assets are typically shared by the spouse and the children, and if one dies married without children, the assets may be shared by the spouse and the deceased person’s parents.

  • Statement: Creating a Will with a do-it-yourself software program may be acceptable in some cases.

Fact: We know it seems self-serving, but creating a Will with a do-it-yourself software program is never acceptable and may not even be legal in North Carolina. First, you may not say what you meant to say, and you won’t be around to explain it. Also, fill-in-the-blank Wills may not be accepted by North Carolina courts, so you may spend quite a bit of time drafting something that your family can’t use.   

  • Statement: Quicken WillMaker Plus software valid in all states except Louisiana.

Fact: Again, DIY software can create documents that you pay for but then can’t use. Even the article author recommends having an attorney to review the Will to be sure it complies with state law.

  • Statement: Costs vary, but you can expect to pay $200 to $1,500.

Fact: The average cost of a Will with a lawyer’s help is $200. A basic Will won’t break the bank.

  • Statement: The best place to keep your Will is in a fireproof safe or file cabinet at home or safe deposit box at the bank.

Fact: In North Carolina, if you lose your Will or it is destroyed, you are presumed to die without one. That’s why it’s critical to store it in a safe place. We recommend that you put your Will on file with the Clerk of Court. This is a free service offered by most counties, including Harnett County, and this ensures that your Will is kept safe. When it’s stored with the Clerk, only you can retrieve it before your death; no other family member can access it before you die. Plus, the Clerk of Court’s office is where the Will should end up after you die as part of the probate process, so it will already be in the right place when you pass.

What the Column Got Right about Wills

  • Statement: Be sure to update if circumstances change or you move. — Yes! This is especially critical if you move to a new state, because Wills and power of attorneys are state-specific documents. What is acceptable in one state may not be valid in another state.
  • Statement: The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) are good resources when searching for lawyers who can help plan your estate. — Yes! Our team member Elizabeth Murphy is a member of the NAELA.

If you have questions about creating your Will in North Carolina, contact us to learn more.

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