Estate planning should be viewed as a relatively broad process that includes several different aspects. The ideal estate plan will vary depending on the situation, because each case is different, and there are multiple approaches that can be taken. That being said, there is a foundation that applies to everyone, and we will take a look at it in this blog post.
The most basic reason why you should put an estate plan in place is to avoid intestacy. This is what happens if you pass away without a will or a trust or any other legal instructions stating your final wishes. Under these circumstances, the probate court would be forced to supervise the administration of the intestate estate.
After final debts are paid, the court would approve the distribution of the assets using the intestate succession laws of the state of North Carolina. Under these circumstances, it is possible if not likely that the outcome would not be consistent with your true wishes.
For example, if you are married with a parent or parents still living, and you have no children, your spouse would not inherit everything. Your parents would get half of your intestate real estate and half of other personal property that exceeds $100,000 in value. This is just one possibility, but there are other intestate succession scenarios that would not sit well with many people.
There is no reason to let the court decide how your legacy is handled after your passing when estate planning assistance is just a phone call away.
The facilitation of postmortem asset transfers sit at the core of an estate plan. A last will is a possibility, but a revocable living trust can be a better choice for a wide range of people. There are many benefits, including the consolidation of assets and the ability to include spendthrift protections.
More complicated objectives can be addressed through the utilization of an irrevocable trust of some kind. The right choice will depend upon the circumstances, and this is why you should discuss your unique situation in detail with a licensed estate planning attorney from our firm.
In addition to the matters that will be addressed after you pass away, you should consider end-of-life issues when you are engaged in your estate planning efforts. One out of every 10 senior citizens is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and the figure rises to 40% among people that are 85 years of age and older.
Of course, Alzheimer’s disease is not the only cause of incapacity among elders. If you do nothing to prepare for this eventuality, the court could be petitioned to appoint a guardian to act on your behalf, and you would become a ward. The person that is empowered by the court may not be the individual that you would have chosen yourself. This is one potential drawback, and there is also the possibility of disagreements among family members at the worst possible time.
To prevent a guardianship and assert your own choices, you can include an incapacity component within your broader estate plan. With a durable power of attorney for health care, you could name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. A durable power of attorney for property can be added to name a financial decision maker.
An incapacity plan will also include a living will, which is a document that is used to state your personal preferences with regard to the use of life-sustaining measures when there is no hope of recovery. You should also add a HIPAA release form to allow people of your choosing to have access to your medical records.
Learn More About Estate Planning
If you would like to obtain more detailed information about the estate planning process, attend one of our free seminars. There are a number of dates on the schedule, and you can get all the details if you visit our seminar page.
Schedule a Consultation!
We are here to help if you would like to have a one-on-one conversation with an estate planning attorney. You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment or call us at 704-944-3245 (Charlotte, NC or Huntersville, NC) or for individuals in Kentucky, at (606) 324-5516 (Ashland, KY) or (859) 372-6655 (Florence, KY).