Estate planning is the process of preparing and organizing affairs for incapacity or death. While it is not always the most comfortable thing to think about, estate planning is essential. Every adult in North Carolina should have a comprehensive estate plan that effectively protects themselves, their loved ones, and their finances. With a well-structured estate plan, you can rest assured that you and your family will be in the best position to navigate the future no matter what might happen.
At Perry, Bundy, Plyler & Long, LLP, our estate planning attorney in Monroe, NC is a skilled, reliable, and solutions-focused advocate for people and families. With the skill needed to assist clients with all types of estate planning matters, we are here to help you set up a detailed plan that truly protects you and your family members. To set up a strictly confidential consultation with a North Carolina estate planning lawyer, please contact us at our Monroe law office today.
Why is Estate Planning So Important?
An alarming number of U.S. adults lack a viable estate plan. A 2021 survey conducted by Gallup found that only half of American adults have a legally valid will, let alone other estate planning documents. Estate planning is important. Without an estate plan, you and your family could run into a number of different problems. Here are four reasons why you should have a detailed estate plan:
- Control: An estate plan will allow you to retain control over your own property and assets. You will get to decide who gets what share of the inheritance.
- Asset Protection: You will better be able to preserve assets and manage wealth. Without an estate plan, you could face higher tax or additional creditor claims.
- Incapacity Planning: An estate plan offers protection in the unfortunate event of incapacity. You can give your trusted loved one(s) the authority needed to manage legal/financial affairs on your behalf.
- Reduced Risk of Conflict: You can provide true clarity to family and friends. No one wants to leave loved ones locked in a conflict. The lack of an estate plan increases the risk of a serious dispute.
An Overview of What a Typical Estate Plan Includes
You may be wondering: What documents do I need to include in my estate plan? The answer depends on several factors, including your family structure, financial circumstances, and your goals. That being said, there are several core documents that are included in most estate plans. Here is an overview of the different things you see in a typical estate plan in North Carolina:
- Will: A will is a central estate planning document. Every adult in North Carolina should have a will in place. Without a will, your estate will be subject to North Carolina’s intestacy laws. You could lose control over the process. Call our Monroe estate planning lawyer for help.
- Trust: For some circumstances, a trust is actually a better tool to leave property/assets than a will. Trusts are not merely useful for the wealthiest of families. There are many different types of trusts. Our North Carolina trust planning lawyer can help you explore your options.
- Power of Attorney: A power of attorney is an estate planning tool that allows you to give a loved one (spouse, adult child, etc) the ability to act on your behalf if you are temporarily or permanently incapacitated. It is an important estate planning tool.
- Health Care Directive: If you have specific wishes regarding end-of-life care, you should set up a health care directive. You may hear this referred to as a living will. It is a legally binding estate planning document in North Carolina.
- Beneficiary Designations: Make sure that all of your beneficiary designations are fully updated. Doing so can save time and money. For example, if you have a 401(k), you can designate a beneficiary, and that asset can pass outside of the North Carolina probate process.
- Insurance Coverage: Do you have dependents? If so, it is strongly recommended that you have adequate life insurance coverage in place. Life insurance coverage is an important aspect of estate planning.
Ultimately, your estate plan should be customized to meet your individual needs. A one-size-fits-all approach is not good enough in estate planning. A customized estate plan does not have to be overly complicated or cost-prohibitive. Our wills and estates lawyer in Monroe, NC can help you craft a personalized plan that is the right fit for you and your family.
A Will is an Essential Estate Planning Document
Do you have a will? If not, you are certainly not alone. Surveys consistently show that 55 to 65 percent of U.S. adults lack a will. This is a serious problem. A last will & testament is foundational to an estate plan. Every adult in Union County—regardless of age, family structure, and financial position—should have a legally valid will. Some key things that you can do with a will include:
- Name the executor of your estate;
- Retain control over your property/assets;
- Choose a legal guardian for minor children;
- Give basic instructions for funeral and burial arrangements; and
- Limit the risk of serious conflict amongst your loved ones.
What Happens If You Do Not Have a Will in North Carolina?
If you pass away without a will in Union County, your estate will be controlled by the North Carolina intestacy laws. In other words, you will lose direct control over what goes on with your remaining property and assets. State law will determine who gets what. Another key issue is that your family and loved ones will be left without clear instructions as to how to handle your estate. Unfortunately, it is common for serious conflicts to arise when people pass away without a will.
Know the Legal Requirements: Creating a Valid Will in North Carolina
To create a legally valid will in North Carolina, there are certain specific requirements that must be met. If you fail to meet any of the requirements, the will may be deemed invalid and unenforceable under state law (NC General Statutes § 31-1). Here are three key legal standards that must be satisfied in order for a person to make a will in North Carolina:
- The person creating the will must be at least 18 years of age;
- The person creating the will must be of sound mind;
- The will should be signed by the person who created it; and
- There must be a minimum of two witnesses, in most cases.
A Will Can Be Easily Revised or Revoked
Some people are hesitant to write a will because they expect that they are going to have to make changes to it later. This is not a good reason to delay. A will that is drafted by an experienced Monroe, NC estate planning lawyer can be easily revised. It can even be revoked outright. As long as you are of sound mind and living, you always have the ability to change your will as you see fit. You do not need to have any specific reason to make changes. Indeed, it is a best practice to view a will as a “living” document. It should be regularly reviewed and, if needed, revised. A will may need to be adjusted after major live events, including:
- A marriage;
- A divorce;
- The birth of a child;
- The birth of a grandchild;
- Inheritance of significant property;
- Disability or other health issues; and
What Is a Valid Will in North Carolina?
The last will and testament is one of the most important documents in estate planning. A will allows the person making the will (the testator) to name recipients of his or her property, to explain how property will be distributed upon his or her death, and to name an executor to manage the probate process. Under North Carolina law, the following are the requirements for a person to make a valid will in Monroe, NC:
- The person must be of sound mind
- The person must be at least 18 years old
Once a person meets the requirements for making a will, then the will must have the following elements to be valid:
- The will must be written – either typed or in the testator’s handwriting
- The will must be signed by the testator
- The will must be signed by two witnesses who were present when the testator executed the document
To be clear, “holographic wills,” or handwritten wills can be valid under North Carolina law (even though they may not be valid in other states). However, it is important to keep in mind that a “nuncupative will,” or a will that is made orally, typically will not be valid in North Carolina even if there are multiple witnesses. For help with contact a Monroe, NC wills attorney now.
Health Care and Estate Planning in Monroe, North Carolina
An essential part of any estate planning process is making a plan for health-related issues. Under North Carolina law, anyone who is thinking about estate planning in North Carolina should discuss these documents with their attorney:
Health Care Power of Attorney:
This document allows a person to name another person as his or her health care power of attorney. This document gives the named person the ability to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself. For example, if you become incapacitated and potentially need lifesaving surgery, the person you have named as a health care power of attorney will be able to step into your shoes to make that decision for you.
Advance Directive for a Natural Death:
This document is also known as a “Living Will.” Unlike a will in which you name beneficiaries and outline how your property will be distributed in the event of your death, this form gives instructions to health care providers about your choices related to health care. In particular, a living will allow you to say whether you want to receive life-prolonging measures under certain medical circumstances if you are incapacitated and cannot make such a decision for yourself.
Our estate planning attorneys in Monroe, NC can also speak with you about HIPAA authorization forms and other related health care matters that accompany the process of estate planning.
Estate Planning is an Ongoing Process—Your Plan Can Be Revised to Meet Changing Needs
Life changes—and your estate plan should change with it. You should be prepared to review—and if necessary, revise—an estate plan after major life events. Some notable examples include marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, major health changes, and retirement. Additionally, it is a best practice to take a look at your estate plan every few years to make sure that it still
effectively achieves your goals. A professionally-crafted estate plan can be easily adjusted to accommodate changing needs.
Contact a Monroe Estate Planning Lawyer
While the future is unpredictable, smart and effective planning can protect the interests of you and your loved ones. By developing estate planning documents, you and your family will be assured that valuable assets are protected, minors and heirs are provided for, fewer taxes are paid and probate is simplified or avoided. Preparation of appropriate documents can assure the distribution of your property in the manner that you desire, in an efficient and orderly fashion.
Each client has different needs and desires. However, several key documents are necessary to a complete estate plan, including wills, trusts, healthcare directives, and powers of attorney. It is important to seek the legal guidance and advice of experienced estate lawyers in estate planning.
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From our Monroe office, we proudly assist people in need of help with family law matters. We zealously help the people of Union, Anson, and Stanly Counties including but not limited to Waxhaw, Wesley Chapel, Indian Trail, Weddington, Unionville, Mineral Springs, Lake Park, Stallings, Hemby Bridge, and Wingate.
With over 110 years of combined legal experience, you can trust your case with us.
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