We at Dobson Law Firm, PLLC understand that most people only think about creating an estate or wealth transfer plan later on in life or after you believe you have wealth to give away. Dobson Law is here to inform you that an estate plan can do much more than minimize estate taxes. A well-crafted plan can:
- Keep assets out of probate and provide greater privacy concerning your financial resources;
- Provide safeguards to see that assets are distributed and used as you intend;
- Protect assets from creditors and the effects of divorce;
- Help minimize potential conflicts among beneficiaries when you are no longer able to act as a moderating force;
- Provide professional management of assets now, or in the event you become unable to manage your own affairs; and
- Document your wishes regarding medical care.
In order to build a strong foundation for your estate, there are certain documents that would benefit you by completing, now. These documents are described below. Dobson Law Firm, PLLC can help you decide what is most beneficial to you.
A Will is a legal document, normally prepared by an Estate Planning Lawyer, setting out your wishes for the distribution of your assets after you pass, the appointment of a Guardian for any minor children or pets you may have on the date of your death, the payment of your debts, and the appointment of an Executor to settle your estate. Normally a Will is type-written, signed by you, and witnessed by two uninterested adults. A will only governs assets that would normally need to pass through the court process of probate in order to be passed on to the intended beneficiary. A will can also help dictate who will raise your children in the event of an unforeseen disaster.
In North Carolina, handwritten wills (Holographic Wills) are valid and enforceable as long as three (3) people can verify the signature and handwriting of the Testator (the person writing and signing the will) after the death occurs.
A Trust is a contract between three parties: 1) the Trustor or Grantor (the person creating the trust); 2) the Trustee (the person holding title to the property of the Trustor); and 3) the Beneficiary(ies). Trusts can be established during your lifetime or created under your will at the time of your death. During the life of the Trustor, the Trust can be amended or terminated whenever the Trustor wants. Trusts are commonly used to control how funds are to be distributed, managed, and used during your lifetime (including periods of incapacity) for your benefit and/or after your death for your chosen beneficiaries. A trust for your children can also help care for them if an unforeseen event occurs. Certain types of trusts can also remove assets, and the appreciation on them, from your taxable estate.
A Testamentary Trust is one that is created at death through your will. It is a direction to the Executor to create a trust if certain conditions are satisfied or not satisfied.
A Revocable Living Trust is one that is created during the lifetime of the trust creator and is a used to receive all assets of the trust creator, whether by will or by beneficiary designation.
The Durable Power of Attorney allows an individual you designate to act on your behalf in handling specific duties such as paying bills or making decisions regarding investments or real estate.
A Living will communicates your wishes regarding the medical treatment you wish to receive or reject under specific conditions and typically outlines the conditions under which extraordinary measures to prolong life should not be taken.
A Health Care Power of Attorney appoints an agent to make health care decisions when you are no longer able to make decisions or communicate your wishes.
A 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.
Last, but not least, Life Insurance is often used to provide cash flow to offset estate taxes, equalize an inheritance, or minimize the income taxes paid by a trust. Life insurance owned by and payable to a properly structured trust is excluded from your taxable estate and the proceeds of the policy are not subject to income tax.
Dobson Law Firm, PLLC understands that probate can take anywhere for three months to several years. We also understand that there are important decisions to be made in very crucial situations surrounding you, your children, your religious beliefs, political beliefs, geographical preference, educational beliefs, disciplinary beliefs, and monetary beliefs. We are here to help ensure that this process runs as smoothly as possible for you and all parties involved.