Estate planning is a critical way for individuals to protect their hard-earned assets as well as provide for their loved ones. An essential element to any estate plan is a will. A will is an instrument through which an individual can plan for how their assets are distributed upon their death. If you die without a will, it is called dying “intestate.” If you die intestate, courts will determine your heirs. Typically, heirs consist of any children, including those from past relationships. But what happens when you have loved ones who you want to provide for but who are not legal heirs? If you die intestate, these loved ones would be excluded from receiving any assets upon your death.
In 2015, former North Carolina Tar Heels men’s basketball coach, Dean Smith, died at the age of 83. Through his will, Smith directed his trust to give $200 to every letter winner who played for him during his 36 seasons as head coach of the team. About 180 letter winners received the $200 checks, with Smith’s message to each of them being to “enjoy a dinner out compliments of Coach Dean Smith.”
While this uplifting story is a small example of how advanced estate planning and a proper will can permit individuals to control their property and wealth and provide for their loved ones after their death, the point is an important one: without a valid will, Smith’s property would have been distributed according to intestacy laws and he would not have been able to provide one last dinner to the players who had meant so much to him.
The many varied benefits of an estate plan cannot be overstated. If you are concerned that your estate plan no longer reflects the value of your property or your current goals, or if you have yet to create an estate plan, contact an attorney at Kirker | Davis LLP to schedule a meeting today.