Actually, you, and everyone else who does not have a will, DO have an estate plan. It’s called “intestacy,” which is legalese for: “this person has died and didn’t leave a will”. The North Carolina legislature has implemented these intestacy laws.
In other words, if you don’t have a will, the North Carolina government has written your will for you, and they might have made very different choices than the ones you would have made for yourself. For example, if you have a spouse and no children, but your parents are still living upon your death, as much as half of your estate could go to your parents. If you have a child, but no estate plan, a Court is going to decide amongst your relatives who will be the guardian of your child. If you have a long-term significant other, but are not legally married, your significant other may receive nothing if you die without an estate plan. Everyone’s family situation is unique, and life is unpredictable. Your estate plan should NOT be a one-size-fits-all solution imposed by the legislature.
Estate planning is more than just a will. A typical simple estate plan will consist of four important documents: a living will, a will, a healthcare power of attorney, and a general power of attorney. A general power of attorney allows the person YOU choose to handle your affairs if, for example, you are temporarily in a coma. Without this document, your relatives are going to have to petition a court to choose someone to handle your affairs. Petitioning the court to appoint a guardian is a time-consuming, expensive burden to your family, and again, the Court could choose someone other than the person you would have chosen yourself.
A healthcare power of attorney is a document within which you decide in advance who gets to make healthcare decisions for you, if you can’t make them yourself. A living will is a document that expresses specific wishes about your healthcare, should you ever be unable to make those decisions. You need only recall the case of Teri Schiavo for the reasons why a healthcare power of attorney and living will are essential. Teri Schiavo suffered from cardiac arrest at age 27. She lived in a persistent vegetative state for five years before her husband requested that her feeding tube (the means keeping her alive) be removed. Her husband had been appointed by a court to be her guardian, but because Ms. Schiavo did not have a living will, her parents were able to delay her husband’s ability to remove her feeding tube, keeping her artificially alive for 15 YEARS while the legal battle played out amongst her family members. When you create an estate plan, YOU assert your right to decide what happens to you, your property, and your family, in the event of your incapacity and death. If you are interested in learning more about estate planning, get in touch with our law firm through our ‘Contact Us’ page.
 Information regarding Terri Schiavo’s case from http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/bioethicist-tk-n333536 as of Aug. 25, 2016.
Disclaimer: This blog discusses legal issues generally, and is intended to promote general knowledge. There are many nuances to every legal issue that are NOT discussed in this blog. This blog refers only to North Carolina law, unless otherwise stated. Laws in other jurisdictions vary. Nothing in the WWApple blog should be construed as legal advice. This blog does not form an attorney client relationship with any person. If you have a legal problem, always consult an attorney. Individual cases can vary greatly from general rules. If you would like to discuss a problem with us, please use our “contact us” page to schedule a consultation.