Death is something no one wants to think about, but planning for death is an extremely important activity to ensure that your loved ones are fully provided for. One of the main tasks this entails is creating a will and, if needed, an estate plan. Having a will and an estate plan means you get to direct what happens to your assets and belongings--not the state.
During your life, you accumulate assets and property that will be distributed upon your death. Most people want to take care of their loved ones and feel it is important to direct to whom or where those assets go. Wills and estate plans accomplish this. Dying without a will in North Carolina means that your assets are distributed according to North Carolina law. This may not be what you ultimately want.
The Doyle Law Offices P.A. in Wake Forest are experienced in creating wills and estate plans. They can work with you to create a plan in directing where your assets go. For over 25 years, wills and estate planning attorney Hank Doyle has assisted clients with:
- Estate Planning
- Estate Administration
- Long-term Care Planning
- Intestate Succession
- Trusts and Living Trusts
- Wills and Last Will & Testaments
- Will Caveats
- Power of Attorney
- Elder Law
What is Estate Planning?
Through estate planning, you can arrange for the transfer of your assets and property at death and/or during your lifetime to the persons or charitable organizations that you want to benefit in the manner desired, while minimizing taxes and other costs. Estate planning involves identifying your wishes and concerns, formulating a plan to carry out those wishes and address those concerns, and drafting the necessary documents that carry out the plan.
What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?
A will is a legal document that gives you control over who receives specific assets and personal property after your death. A trust is an agreement between yourself and another person, the trustee, who will oversee the management of assets based on your instructions. Trusts are usually revocable living or irrevocable. Our wills and estate planning lawyer at The Doyle Law Offices can help you decide which one is best for your situation.
Who Needs a Will or Estate Plan?
A common misconception is that wills and estate planning are things that only the wealthy need to worry about. The reality is that everyone needs to have a will and estate plan in place to provide for the future of family and loved ones. Without a will, the process upon death becomes more difficult for those who are left.
What Documents are Included in an Estate Plan?
The exact documents that are required in an estate plan are particular to each individual set of circumstances. That being said, it is typical for a person to need the following documents for a complete estate plan:
- Last Will and Testament
- General Durable Power of Attorney
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Living Will
- HIPAA Release Form
A will is a simple legal document that provides a road map for distributing assets upon a person’s death. If you die intestate, which means without a will, your assets will be distributed according to a detailed allocation established by N.C. law. This can cause family disputes and result in expensive litigation. North Carolina recognizes four types of wills: (1) attested written wills, (2) holographic (handwritten), (3) nuncupative (oral), and (4) joint wills. The one recommended and the most common is the attested written will.
In many cases, the will is the essential estate planning tool that allows individuals to transfer their assets in the way they desire. A will allows you to name a guardian of minor children and name the individual(s) to execute your estate plan.
A living will is also called an advanced health care directive, which states what medical treatment you wish to receive, or not, if you lose the ability to make the decision yourself, in the event of incapacitation. A living will allows you to specify your wishes for three possible medical conditions: (1) an incurable or irreversible condition; (2) unconsciousness, when it is unlikely that consciousness could be regained; and (3) advanced dementia or similar substantial and irreversible cognitive loss. In those conditions, you can declare whether health care providers either “may” or “shall” withhold life-prolonging measures.
Health Care Power of Attorney
The Health Care Power of Attorney is a document that authorizes desired individuals to make decisions for you related to medical treatment and other personal services. This document is important to ensure that difficult decisions can be made in accordance with your wishes when you are unable to make those decisions yourself. Under those circumstances, your Health Care Agent would select the physician(s) and hospital where you would be treated and would also be authorized to grant consent for medical treatment. Additionally, the Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to specify wishes in regards to burial, cremation, organ donation, and other end of life matters.
Revocable Living Trusts
Depending on your circumstances and goals, it may be appropriate to create a Revocable Living Trust. This kind of trust serves many of the same estate planning functions as a will. Additionally, a Revocable Living Trust allows for the avoidance of probate for assets titled in the name of the trust during your lifetime. It provides privacy, flexibility, and potentially less arduous administration after your death, as well as the continuity of managing assets in the event of your death or incapacitation.
Durable Power of Attorney
A General Durable Power of Attorney authorizes the individuals or entities you designate to act on your behalf if you become incapable during your lifetime, or for convenience if you want to have assistance in handling your affairs. In contrast to the Health Care Power of Attorney, the General Durable Power of Attorney allows these individuals or entities to manage your day-to-day affairs, finances, and to make non-medical decisions on your behalf. Activities such as paying bills, filing health insurance claims, collecting money owed to you, filing income tax returns, and so forth can be done by the Durable POA.
Meeting with our wills and estate planning lawyer at our Wake Forest law firm to discuss your situation will give you peace of mind that an experienced attorney is on your side. We have served clients in Wake Forest, Raleigh, Cary, Apex, Rolesville and surrounding areas for over 20 years.