Are You Covered? When to Update Your Will.

Generally, the purpose of a will is to distribute the testator’s assets upon his or her death. A will often includes a provision for personal property, real property, and the residuary estate. While your will may have incorporated all your personal property and real property at the time it was drafted, it may not include any changes to your estate.

Common changes to beneficiaries can include marriage, divorce, birth of a child, and adoption. Furthermore, prior provisions that describe real and personal property may have changed with the purchase or sale of a house, stock, or other assets. As the old saying goes, the one thing that is constant is change.

These changes can make a significant impact on the distribution of your estate. A prior will provision that leaves property to named children A and B, generally does not provide newborn child C with a share of that property. Additionally, if specific real property was devised in your will and that property has since been sold and you’ve bought a new house or other real property, such as a vacation house, the new property may not be incorporated into your current will.

If a will does not account for property at the time of death, it will be distributed through intestacy as described in the North Carolina General Statutes. The following are examples of the North Carolina intestacy statutes.

Real property not accounted for in a valid will is distributed as follows:

  • If you only have one child or lineal descendant:  A surviving spouse takes a one-half undivided interest in the property, and the child or lineal descendant receives one-half undivided interest in the property.
  • If you have two children:  Each child, as well as your surviving spouse receive one-third undivided interest in the real property.

Personal property not included in your will is distributed as follows:

  • If you have one child: the surviving spouse receives the first $60,000 in net value and one-half the remainder, and the child would receive the remaining one-half of the value.
  • If you have two children: the surviving spouse receives the first $60,000 in net value and one-third the balance, and the children or their surviving descendants receive the rest.

The legislature intended for the intestacy statutes to predict how the average person would want their estate distributed. However, the “one size fits all” statute is not personalized to how you may want your specific assets divided.

Thinking about your estate distribution and the surrounding circumstances can be an uncomfortable process. However, having a proper will can provide an accurate representation of the assets and property you wish to devise, which is often different from how the legislature has predicted.

There are many different combinations of asset distribution. A knowledgeable attorney can set you up with the right documents to meet your needs. Set up a consultation with our attorney Courtney Ballard to review your estate documents or create new estate documents today.