Estate Planning FAQs

Do I need to file my will at the courthouse or in the county where I reside?

In North Carolina, you need only comply with the proper procedures for making and executing your will. You do not need to present a copy of your will to the court or place it in public records. Once you have signed your will, it is advisable for you to place your will in a safe place such as in a safe-deposit box or with your other important papers.

Do I need a lawyer to make my will?

In order for a will to be valid in North Carolina, it must be drafted and executed in accordance with the requirements of North Carolina Law. An attorney who is familiar with wills and estate planning can help you make some of the important decisions and can also ensure that your will meets the requirements in order to be valid. A will should be drafted by an attorney for your protection and the protection of your family, but having an attorney draft your will is not a requirement.

Can I use my will to name somebody to care for my young children, in case my spouse and I both die suddenly?

Your will can specify the individuals who you wish to receive custody of your minor children should you and your spouse die suddenly. It is suggested that you also name alternate guardians in your will. By making these decisions and placing them in writing within your will, you assist the courts greatly in determining who will be the guardian for your children.

Can I say whether I want pain medication, or food and water?

You can give full power and authority to a health care agent to make decisions for you, which you could make yourself if you had the capacity to make and communicate health care decisions. Authority can involve decisions regarding anatomical rights, autopsies and disposition of remains. The authority granted to the health care agent may contain whichever restrictions the principal deems appropriate. Therefore, a health care proxy may instruct the physicians on whether you would like artificial food and water as well as pain medication, because if you were able to communicate yourself, you could ask the physicians to withhold any of those items from your treatment.

Can I revoke my will after it has been signed?

You can always revoke your will after it has been signed. Should you wish to revoke a will because you have had a new one drawn, you should destroy all signed copies of your old will (there should only be one) by tearing, shredding or burning each page. Please note that if you destroy your will with the intent to revoke it and die before you execute another will, your property will be distributed by the intestate laws of North Carolina.