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So, What If I Don't Have A Will?

I continue to run across situations where someone has died without a will and either the surviving spouse or other member(s) of the family assume the assets will automatically come to them ( and for some of us, we know what “assume” really means). Not so. I wrote about a situation like this in January on my blog title, “Does He Really Own the Home and Land?” (

Since then, I have come across at least two other situations where someone died without a will and surviving relatives are trying to sell the assets without going through the court. No “Notice to Creditors” had been published. In one situation, the heirs do not like each other and in the other, most of the heirs live out of state, viz., North Carolina.

If the surviving spouse and/or heirs had done some pre-planning, like having a will drawn while the deceased was still living, designating who gets what and who the executor will be… well, probating the estate would have been a whole lot easier and quicker.

I cannot give legal advice because I am not an attorney, but I can start someone in the right direction. While wait until the estate owner is totally incapacitated or dead before acting? And you don’t need a million-dollar estate to justify having a will.

As a Certified Estate Specialist (CES) we can sit down with you and discuss your current situation and desires. It could be best to transfer title to property now instead of having it transferred at death.

If you are not sure how title is being held, check your documents. For example, Real Estate: look at the deed; Bank accounts: check the registration card on file at the bank. When you get a bank statement, whose name is it addressed to? Brokerage accounts: check a statement for the account; Car, boat, or other vehicle: Check the title for certificate of ownership; Stocks and Bonds: check the stock certificate or bond.

In many cases, joint ownership, like joint tenancy with right of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety will help you avoid probate, but you need to look at the total picture and not just one segment of your estate to avoid probate.

And remember, even if you have a will, you need to have it reviewed yearly as situations can change, such as a divorce, new addition to the family, designated executor no longer wishes to serve, or you no longer own certain assets.

If you need to liquidate assets now, like real estate and personal property, we can assist you with that. Or if you would just like to talk, call us at 252-257-4822 or visit our web-site at

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