Do I Need a Will or a Trust in North Carolina?

Do I Need a Will or a Trust in North Carolina?

When is a will the best option in NC?

If you have a will-based plan, your estate will be subject to probate and estate administration (See Diagram[1] for per person cost). North Carolina offers two short cuts that avoid or simplify probate, and in these instances, a simple will is often the best approach.

  • Collection of Property by Affidavit. If you have assets valued less than $20,000 (or $30,000 if a couple) then you can avoid probate by process of collection of property by affidavit.[2]
  • Summary Administration. If you leave everything to your surviving spouse, you may file a petition for summary administration.[3]

Additionally, if your assets are valued less than $100,000 or you have a simple estate profile, a will may still be the best approach. Frequently, people draft basic wills as a first step into planning or prior to a major event, such as overseas travel or surgery.

When is a trust the best option in NC?

If you want to avoid probate, related court and attorney fees, and keep confidential your private affairs, or if you have varied assets valued in excess of $100,000, a trust-based plan is probably the best approach for you. A trust allows you to minimize court costs and filings at death. It immediately addresses incapacity and provides a solid base to work from to reduce estate taxes.

Total Payments to Estate Administration Lawyers

Should I use an online legal service?

Some online legal services advertise wills for $39, but remember, you get what you pay for. With a do-it-yourself plan one mistake can invalidate a will. Using an estate planning attorney is the best option for creating a secure plan that fits your unique situation.

Can any attorney draft a simple will?

Yes, but it is ill advised unless they are an estate planning attorney. It is best to hire someone who stays updated on estate law, which is highly complex.


Notice: This is general information and should not be relied upon as legal advice. For a consultation, contact or call 910-319-7373. (Version: 11/21)


[1] Source: Martindale-Nolo Research, 07-29-19.

[2] NC General Statutes 28A-25-1.1 (2012).

[3] NC General Statutes 28A-28-1. Summary administration where spouse is sole beneficiary (1995).

Author Bio

Shane T. Johnson is the CEO and Managing Partner of Johnson Legal, an estate planning and business law firm in Wilmington, NC. With years of experience in estate and business law, he has zealously represented clients in various legal matters, including small business formation and purchasing, estate planning, probate, domestic violence, and other legal cases.

Shane received his Juris Doctor from the University of Wyoming and is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named among the Best Probate Lawyers in Wilmington by

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