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Estate Planning – Wills & Trusts

Wills and Trusts in North Carolina

Let Us Develop a Plan Tailored for You!

Estate planning is an important, thoughtful, and selfless gift you can give to your family. By leaving behind an estate plan, you’ll allow your family to fully grieve their loss and comfort themselves in your memory without the added hassle of having to organize and take care of your estate.

Your initial consultation is not just an ordinary information gathering exercise. It’s an opportunity to organize all of your assets and develop an Estate Plan specifically tailored for your family’s needs and the specific interests you want to protect.

North Carolina Wills and Trusts: The Bedrock of your Estate Plan

Cary, NC Estate Planning Lawyer

Guardianship: If You Don’t Choose, the Court Will

I wouldn’t want the Clerk of Court deciding who makes my kids lunch, much less take care of and guide my kids through the rest of their lives.

But, this is what will happen if you don’t nominate a guardian yourself.

It’s left up to the Clerk of Court because they are given exclusive jurisdiction over guardianship proceedings and are seen as a neutral arbiter. Their job is to do what’s in the best interest of the child, given the information they have.

But, there is something missing when the Clerk makes this decision: they don’t know you, they don’t know your kids, and they don’t know what’s important to you.

I’m sure everyone knows a handful of people who are good parents “on paper” but you wouldn’t necessarily want them to raise your kids.

The reason for this is simple: you value some things more than other people do or would.

It could be any number of important issues:

  • Religious beliefs;
  • Political beliefs;
  • Geographical preference;
  • Educational beliefs;
  • Disciplinary beliefs;
  • Monetary beliefs;
  • And many, many other

It’s easy to see how the Clerk could make a decision that’s nothing close to the one you’d make.

If you don’t want to leave your guardianship decision up to someone else, you need to make it yourself – now.

Estate Planning with Wills

Cary, NC Estate Planning Lawyer

PROTECT YOUR FAMILY WITH WILL-BASED ESTATE PLANNING

Wills are perhaps the most important aspect of an Estate Plan and are often the foundation with which an effective Estate Plan is built. Wills allow you to do more than just elect who will be your beneficiaries.

PROVIDE FOR THE SAFETY AND PROTECTION OF YOUR CHILDREN

Wills allow you to appoint a guardian to take care of your minor children in your absence. You can also include directions to the people you appoint regarding how you would want them to raise your children. Without a will, the potential for a custody feud between family members is higher. By making that decision yourself, you save your family from the emotion and feuding and keep them out of Court – or at least limit it as much as possible.

ALLOW YOUR SPOUSE TO MAKE THE DECISIONS FOR YOUR FAMILY

If you are married with minor children, passing away without a will can require a substantial amount of your estate to be distributed to your children instead of being distributed to your spouse. Federal law requires any inheritance given to minor children to be held in trust until they reach age 21. Instead of your surviving spouse having complete control over the family finances and being able to do what they think is right with what you left for them, they must hold a portion of it aside, in trust, for the child’s benefit only. Planning can prevent this administrative and legal headache.

DON’T LET THE COURTS CONTROL YOUR ASSETS

Your will prevents the Courts from deciding how your assets with be distributed. The State of North Carolina’s default rules, “intestate succession”, apply in the absence of a will – but oftentimes the State’s rules do not align with your wishes. Take control of your assets and your family’s future with will-based estate planing.

Trust-Based Estate Planning

STRUCTURED DISTRIBUTIONS TO CHILDREN

If your children stand to inherit a generous sum of money, it may not be in their best interests to receive it all in a single, lump sum distribution. Trust-based planning can provide for your children over time and can be planned to coincide with life’s milestones – college, their first home, marriage, children of their own, etc. – or based on specific ages or dates.

AVOID PROBATE

The last thing your family wants to endured after losing you is going to court, filing inventories and accountings, and dealing with the administrative burdens of Probate. By utilizing a trust-based estate plan, you can allow your family to grieve their loss and continue on without going to Court or dealing with Court oversight.

PLAN IN PRIVATE

Probate files are open to the general public and will contain an accounting of your assets at the time of your passing. Some families wish to avoid the potential of people knowing what they own by using trust-based planning to avoid Probate altogether. A trust is simply a contract and it is not required to be submitted to the Court after you’re gone.

POTENTIAL TAX BENEFITS

Trusts can be used to take advantage of tax regulations which allow for the avoidance of estate or income tax penalties. Irrevocable trusts are most often used to transfer assets out of your taxable estate if your net worth is close to, or may exceed, the federal estate tax exemption amount (just over $5.4 million for an individual and $10.8 million for married couples).

North Carolina Powers of Attorney

Cary, NC Estate Planning Lawyer

Healthcare Power of Attorney

A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to choose someone to make your health care decisions for you if you can’t make them yourself. Designating a healthcare agent assures that your wishes are followed.

Your healthcare agent will have authority to make healthcare-related decisions on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated. Choosing a health care agent is a tough decision and you must make sure that the person you pick is willing to be your agent.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

Commonly referred to as a financial power of attorney, as opposed to a healthcare power of attorney, the Durable Financial Power of Attorney allows you to give someone the authority to handle financial transactions and coordinate your financial affairs in the event you are no longer able to – whether you are physically or mentally no longer present.

Ranging from anything from moving money to executing a deed to your home, you can grant or limit the authority your agent has depending on your specific circumstances.

Living Wills (or Advanced Directive)

A Living Will allows you to take those very difficult end-of-life decisions out of the hands of your loved ones. If you have a plan for how you’d like to leave this world, and “all means necessary” is not included in it – a Living Will can ensure that your wishes are honored without emotion and grief clouding anyone’s judgment.

Special Needs Trust Lawyer in North Carolina

North Carolina Special Needs Trusts

Protect your Child with Special Needs from an Uncertain Future

If your child is currently eligible, or will likely become eligible in the future, for government, means-tested benefits based on a physical or cognitive disability or impairment, it’s important to protect those benefits long-term. A North Carolina Special Needs Trust Lawyer can help protect your child.

An inheritance to your child of more than $2,000 in assets will likely disqualify them for continuing these benefits after you pass – the most significant of which is Medicaid coverage.

Special Needs Trusts Protect Your Child’s Vital Benefits

You’ve cared for your child since the day they were born. After you’re gone, they may not receive the same monetary assistance that you provided for them. If they’re unable to work, they’ll be relying heavily on government assistance through SSI and Medicaid in order to support themselves for the rest of their life. Planning ahead can put your child in a position for success, rather than uncertainty.

Navigating the Complex SSI and Medicaid Regulations

Planning for the maintenance of SSI and Medicaid benefits for your child is not something to take lightly. Nor should it be entrusted with just any attorney. Special Needs Planning requires in-depth and complex analysis of family dynamics, finances, and prognoses to develop a plan that will work for you and your child.

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Medicaid Long Term Care: Exempt Transfers

Medicaid Long Term Care: Exempt Transfers

Under Medicaid regulations, there are several types of Exempt Transfers which will not be penalized if made by the applicant prior to applying.

Applying for Medicaid Too Late or Too Early

Applying for Medicaid Too Late or Too Early

The timing when an individual, or their "authorized representative", apply for Medicaid is extremely important. Applying too early or too late can result in significant unintended consequences.

Medicare and Nursing Home Care in North Carolina

Medicare and Nursing Home Care in North Carolina

It would make sense that Medicare should pay for nursing home care. Well, when it comes to long-term care in a nursing home, Medicare just doesn't cover it - at least not all of it. 

Medicaid Long-Term Care Eligibility and Your Home

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The Medicaid application in North Carolina can be a tricky minefield for people experiencing it for the first time. Disability, income, assets - all with different standards and different ramifications on your (or your loved one's) eligibility. And while not all assets are treated equally, how you respond to a certain eight word question can have a very significant impact on Medicaid eligibility and future medical treatment.

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If used properly, Medicaid Asset Protection Trusts can help Medicaid applicants keep their home a non-countable asset, but also remove the home from their estate and potential Medicaid Estate Recovery.

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Many people think "Spend Down" means "spend all of the money" - but Spend Down planning actually involves converting assets, not necessarily wasting them. 

Special Needs Planning: What it is, Who it’s for, and Why it’s Important

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Since October is Special Needs Planning Month, I figured today we would talk about Special Needs Planning, what it really is, who it applies to, what’s the family should think about it seriously and implement planning for themselves.

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Estate Tax Exemption for Estates in North Carolina – 2018 Update

Estate Tax Exemption for Estates in North Carolina – 2018 Update

Another year, another rise in the unified lifetime estate and gift tax exemption. 

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