Are Your North Carolina Last Will and Testament and Guardianship Designations up to Date in the Midst of Coronavirus

Theodora Vaporis

Living with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, has made many people step back and take actions that ensure they are prepared. In the short term that means fighting the lines for food and cleaning supplies but in the long term it means making sure that all recommended important legal documents are up to date. Only two weeks ago, we thought that only older people were affected but now we know that people of all ages are at risk.

Persons of all ages are reminded to make sure they have a Last Will and Testament in place. Young parents are reminded to make sure they have a Will that names a guardian for their minor children. The guardian is the person you choose to raise your children if you are unable to do so. In your Will you can also set out a children’s trust that provides when your children are to receive any money that they inherit and how that money can be spent before. If a child inherits money in North Carolina and there is no trust in place, a court ordered guardianship is then required.

Those that do not have young children are also reminded to review their current Last Will and Testament to be sure that it properly reflects their intent. In the alternative, if no Will has ever been established, perhaps it is time to execute one.

Business owners need to be sure that they have a succession plan in place for the operation of their business in the event of incapacity – as well as the management and ownership of the business on the death of the owner.

While stopgap measures sometimes happen, we find when people hastily make decisions with the thought that they will be corrected down the road, the corrections are never made and unintended consequences result. Transferring a home in to one child’s name may have a long list of unintended consequences. It is rarely recommended. Leaving a life insurance policy or bank account to one person with instructions (which are not legally binding) on what to do with the proceeds, rarely goes as planned. In addition, you may create gift tax issues in addition to accountability issues. It is better to seek advice, do the planning and make the correct designations from the onset.

Finally, this would be a good time to check your beneficiary designations on your IRA, 401K, 403B, Life insurance and/or other contract policies to be sure that they properly reflect your intent. Often we discover an ex-spouse, ex-significant other or ex-friend as the beneficiary when it was clear this was not what the person intended.

If you need assistance with a Last Will and Testament, the attorneys at Black, Slaughter & Black, P.A. in our Greensboro, Charlotte, Wilmington and Triangle offices can assist you. This can be difficult topic to discuss but this virus has certainly been a sobering reminder of how important it is to be prepared in every way. We are meeting with clients remotely via Zoom, teleconferences and other ways that make the most sense during this sensitive time.