Q: What is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is one of the most important steps you can take to make sure that your legacy is preserved for your family according to your wishes. Estate Planning also involved the naming of surrogate decision makers that will act on your behalf in the event of incompetence or incapacity. A common estate plan may include the following documents:
- Last Will and Testament
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- Living Will
Q: What is a Last Will and Testament?
This document provides for final disposition of real and personal property and appoints an Executor to carry out the administration of the estate at the time of your death.
Q: What is a Durable Power of Attorney?
This document allows you to appoint a surrogate decision maker to handle your financial matters in the event that you become unable to manage them due to incapacity or incompetence.
Q: What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
This document allows you to appoint a surrogate decision maker to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event that you become unable to manage your healthcare matters due to incapacity or incompetence.
Q: What is a Living Will?
This document allows you to make choices regarding end of life medical care. A Living Will allows you to state your own choices about life support and helps to prevent confusion regarding the type of care that you wish to receive at the end of your life in the event you are unable to voice your wishes due to incapacity.
Q: What is a Trust?
A Trust document can be designed to hold assets for the benefit of others such as a spouse or a minor beneficiary until a designated time in which the assets are then distributed outright.
Q: Why is Estate Planning important?
1. Prevents Wealth from Going to Unintended Beneficiaries: If you die without a Will, assets that are not disposed of through beneficiary designations, will be distributed according to state law. The law follows a prescribed formula and dying without a will could result in un-intended results such as your assets being distributed to heir’s contrary to your wishes.
2. Minimizing or Avoiding Estate Administration: An estate administration can be a difficult and time-consuming process for your family. During an estate administration the process is public, your assets are subject to creditors and it can result in further expense and delay in distributing your assets to your heirs.
3. Protects Families: Estate planning can: 1) provide for the protection of wealth for minor children and the appointment of guardians for minor children, 2) provide protection for family members with disabilities, 3) eliminate family conflict by having your wishes clearly documented, 4) relieve your family of making difficult financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf.
4. Provides Tax Protection: Estate planning can reduce estate, inheritance and income taxes with the goal of creating the smallest tax burden for your family as possible.
Q: How Can an Estate Planning Attorney help me?
Many people attempt to compete their own estate plan without the help of a qualified attorney, a move which often results in invalid documents or unintended consequences for their beneficiaries. An estate planning attorney can help you by:
- Ensuring your documents are valid in North Carolina: North Carolina has different requirements for the preparation, content and execution of each document of your estate plan. An estate attorney is up to date on current law and can prepare and execute documents that are compliant and ready to be used when needed.
- Ensuring your documents fit your specific needs: Estate Planning is not one-size fits all. Creating an estate plan that fits your family involves careful investigation of your financial, spiritual, healthcare and family related needs.
- Evaluating your estate for possible tax planning: An estate planning attorney will evaluate your estate and provide you advice regarding beneficiary designations, trusts and other tools to minimize the tax consequences to your family upon your death.
- Evaluating your family situation for uncommon issues: Every family is unique and as such an estate planning attorney can provide unique solutions to issues that may arise such as:
- Beneficiary Issues- irresponsible, addicted, disabled or minor beneficiary issues.
- End of Life Issues- end of life treatment, burial/cremation wishes, donation of organs/body.
- Family Disputes- housing issues, competency issues, decision maker issues.