Practice Area Estate Planning
You need to have well-designed and carefully-drafted estate planning documents to protect you and your family in the event of your death or disability.
If you do not create your own estate plan, the State will impose its plan on you and your loved ones – which undoubtedly will not be what you would want. The State’s plan is not designed to minimize expenses, to give you and your family privacy, or to protect any assets which go to adults who are immature or financially irresponsible. Some people try to create their own documents from on-line websites, without the benefit of expert legal advice – and often create unnecessary complication and expense for their families after their deaths.
Our attorneys will be happy to meet with you and to make recommendations which address your unique personal situation. Our firm offers comprehensive services which will protect you from outdated or poorly-designed plans and documents. We have Board Certified Specialists in both Estate Planning and Probate Law and Elder Law. Our attorneys can assist you in designing and implementing an appropriate plan for you and your loved ones.
A well-drafted will can insure that any property belonging to you on the date of death will go to the proper persons and, where necessary, can be protected and used for any intended beneficiaries who are minors or other individuals who need protection and assistance.
In the event of your disability, you need to have documents authorizing the proper persons to sign papers on your behalf, which remain in effect after your disability, in compliance with North Carolina law. You also need to have a designated person or persons who can make health care decisions for you, perhaps including instructions for end-of-life decisions.
Revocable living trusts also can be helpful in the event of disability, although many people use those trusts primarily to avoid court-supervised probate at death. A revocable living trust can serve as a will substitute at death for any assets titled in the name of the trust at the time of the death of the trust’s grantor. We recommend professional assistance in transferring assets to trusts and in properly designating beneficiaries of life insurance policies and retirement accounts.
Retirement accounts and personal residences are often the most valuable assets in an estate, and beneficiary designations for a retirement account can have a major impact on the income tax liability of beneficiaries. We recommend that you have professional assistance in coordination your beneficiary designations with your estate planning documents. We also can help structure charitable giving for individuals who want to give or leave substantial gifts to tax-exempt organizations, including both lifetime giving and gifts at death.
As part of our Estate Planning practice, we:
- prepare wills and numerous types of trust agreements;
- organize business entities, such as Family Limited Liability Companies;
- prepare living wills, health care powers of attorney and durable powers of attorney;
- assist individuals with the transfer of assets to accomplish their estate planning objectives; and
- assist individuals with appropriate ownership or beneficiary designation forms for the distribution of non-probate assets, such as life insurance and retirement plans.
We will consult with you and your other professional advisors, such as accountants, trust officers and financial advisors, to make sure that your estate plan addresses your needs.
When clients make substantial lifetime gifts, we can assist in the preparation of federal gift tax returns, when necessary (North Carolina no longer has a gift tax).