Why You Need a Last Will and Testament

Written by Jonathan Breeden

June 9, 2016

The nation is still reeling over the loss of legendary pop star Prince last April. At only 57 years old, most expected that he had more time to live. It seems that he was not prepared, as he appears to have died intestate, or without a last will and testament.

Shortly after his passing, Prince’s sister filed his estate with the probate court in Carver County, Minn., citing that he died without a will. She stated that he did not have a spouse, children, or surviving parents, and requested to be named administrator of his estate. She named herself and his five half siblings as the only heirs. It is shocking for Prince to die intestate after being lauded as being very careful to protect his music and image.

His assets have been said to exceed hundreds of millions of dollars, and figuring out where everything is supposed to go will likely result in a tedious process in probate court. Prince was a businessman and wealthy individual, meaning he likely has personal assets that are tied to co-owned businesses that may supersede the directives of asset distribution after death. His estate will certainly be difficult to distribute.

If You Were to Die Intestate, What Would Happen to Your Stuff?

In North Carolina, the estates of people who die intestate are subject to intestate succession laws. A person can apply to court to be named a “personal representative,” or executor of an estate. Persons qualified to be personal representatives include:

  1. The surviving spouse of the decedent;
  2. Anyone who is to receive property as indicated by the will of the decedent;
  3. Anyone who is entitled to receive property of the decedent by law in the absence of a will;
  4. Any next of kin;
  5. Any creditor to whom the decedent became obligated prior to death;
  6. Any person of good character residing in the county who applies with the Clerk of Superior Court.

It’s important to note that the court may allow a creditor to apply and become the personal representative of your estate. Even if your estate is modest, or if you don’t particularly care how your assets are divided, it may be concerning to think your mortgage company can administer your estate rather than a family member or trusted confidant.

Bottom Line: You Need a Will.

There is an important lesson to be learned about Prince’s situation: Everyone, no matter the size of their estate, should have a last will and testament in place. While Prince’s estate might be quite sizeable compared to the average person, his lack of planning shows that he left a rather messy situation behind that will take significant time to figure out. This is true of anyone who dies intestate. If you die without a will, no matter what you have left behind, it will take both the court and your family time to sort everything out. It may interfere with the time your loved ones are able to spend together grieving and remembering you.

Even if you don’t have close family, or your family doesn’t get along well, having a will in place is very important. A will outlines your wishes specifically, leaving no room for ambiguity. Family members will not be able to fight over your items or argue that they know what is best. You’ll already have told them how you want everything to be divided. If you don’t care what happens to your estate, it is still a good idea to head off any potential problems by dictating how division of your estate should occur. Even the most basic, straightforward will is better than having no will at all.

How a North Carolina Family Law Attorney Can Help You

It’s a good idea to consult a North Carolina family law attorney to help you draft a will. Your attorney will know what questions to ask to make sure all of your affairs are addressed and no stone is left unturned. Attorney Jonathan Breeden of Breeden Law Office has over 20 years of experience handling legal issues for North Carolina residents. His experience with local, state, and national laws ensures that he can help you draft this important document that will take care of your family someday. Give Jonathan a call at (919) 661-4970 today.


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