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All too often, at our law firm we have heard of cases where individuals have passed away, or they have become mentally and physically incapacitated and unable to look after their own affairs, without having planned for those events. This can become a tragedy for their loved ones and their surviving family members. Truly, in this area, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
It is certainly a difficult thing to think about and discuss with your loved ones topics involving your estate and your Will. But having certain properly-executed documents in existence can help to make sure that if a tragic event happens, your own wishes on a variety of issues can be followed. Having a good estate plan can substantially lessen the burden on your loved ones when tragic or unexpected events happen in your family.
When someone passes away without a Last Will and Testament, North Carolina law says how that individual’s property is distributed and allows a range of individuals to act as the administrator of the estate of the person who has passed away. While these rules often match what someone would have put in their Will anyway, sometimes, they do not. Also, by using a Will and other Estate Planning tools, it is possible to reduce the confusion and expenses involved in handling an estate.
If you have a properly-executed Will, you can control who will administer your estate, how your remaining assets will be disbursed, and you can decide how best to distribute your assets and other property.
With a Will, you can specifically name whom you want to execute your will and administer your estate. You can also specifically instruct how each of your assets will be distributed. By having a thought-out estate plan and a Will, you can make sure that there is certainty in the event of a tragedy, and this can bring peace of mind to you and your loved ones.
The law sets certain requirements for a Will to be valid. We recommend that you seek the advice and counsel of a qualified attorney when you are preparing your own Will and your estate plan for you and your family. For more information call800.849.5291 or email us, today!
Executing a proper Will is an essential part of an estate plan. Along with a Will, we also recommend that our clients have a Living Will (also commonly known as an “advance directive”) and a Health Care Power of Attorney.
A “living will” allows you to direct, in writing, your doctors and family members, as to what to do and how far you want your doctors to go in prolonging your life if and when the time comes that they have reasonably determined that you will never recover from your illness nor regain consciousness or any quality of life. A “living will” can increase the certainty regarding the medical care and other arrangements to be undertaken if a catastrophic event occurs.
Without this document, disputes can arise among loved ones and medical providers, since they lack the certainty of knowing what you would have wanted them to do. However, with the guidance of a properly prepared living will, they are all bound by your decision and must act accordingly. This can provide peace of mind to you as well as them.
With a “health care power of attorney,” which works along with your living will, you can choose someone – typically, a spouse or adult child – to act as your “agent” in making important medical decisions if the day ever comes when you have been deemed mentally unable to make decisions and act on your own behalf by your doctors. This health-care “agent” also ensures that your living will is properly followed when and if the proper time comes.
North Carolina law and statutes specifically provide for the use of living wills and health care power of attorneys. We have found that these legal instruments are widely used and well-recognized as effective ways to provide guidance and certainty to families and loved ones dealing with difficult circumstances and serious illnesses.
Finally, we recommend that our clients have a Durable General Power of Attorney. This is a document which, similar to the health care power of attorney, gives “power” to an individual of your choice – again, typically a spouse or adult child – to handle your financial affairs in the event that in the future you become physically or mentally unable to do so.
Those broad responsibilities can range from something as simple as paying monthly bills to selling or purchasing real estate. This document helps to ensure that your financial affairs are handled properly if the day comes when you are unable to manage them yourself.
In addition, the law provides for special steps to be taken in your estate plan to deal with a wide variety of other contingencies and issues. Special measures can be undertaken to set up a trust or make legal arrangements for your estate and your assets that can help to pass as much of your assets as possible to your loved ones and family and to avoid unnecessary taxes on these assets.
Further, the law provides for special approaches to structure an estate to address issues such as ensuring the future care of a disabled child, ensuring the proper transition of real estate and other properties, addressing foreseeable creditor claims and liens, and accounting for the need for nursing home or extended care facilities.