WHAT IS AN ESTATE PLAN?

An estate plan is a set of documents that protects your family, yourself, and your property when you become ill, incapacitated, or die. Estate planning allows you to make your wishes known in a series of legal documents. These documents may spell out who should make medical decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so, who will care for your minor children if you die, and what happens to your assets and property after your death.

Typical estate planning documents will include:

  • A Will
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Advance Directives (Health Care Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, HIPAA Authorizations)
  • Revocable Living Trust, and/or
  • Special Needs Trust

No matter where you are in life, it is crucial to maintain a comprehensive, up-to-date estate plan. We recommend you begin planning as soon as you reach adulthood and update your estate plans every two to three years or when you experience a major life change (marriage, divorce, birth of a child, etc.). At Averett Family Law, we work closely with you to discover your values and concerns. We then develop a tailored estate plan to provide for your loved ones, protect your assets, and meet your other needs. Throughout the process, we treat you with the respect and professionalism that you deserve when dealing with such potentially sensitive issues.

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What happens if I die without a will or estate plan?

If you die without a will, you die “intestate.” This causes a number of consequences and problems that are easily avoidable:

  • North Carolina’s Intestate Succession Statute outlines how your property will be split among your relatives. In many cases, this will not not result in the distribution you would have chosen.
  • Dying without a plan often leads to fallout among loved ones as they fight over who gets what. Your family will already be facing an emotionally difficult time. You can help them by putting your affairs in order and making your wishes clear.
  • You don’t get any say about who is appointed as Executor to collect and distribute your property after your death. The clerk of court will appoint someone – like your least favorite brother-in-law – without any input from you. You should select your own Executor – either from within your family or a professional third-party.
  • Any children you have who are under the age of 18 when you die will need care. If you do not have legal paperwork in place to specify a guardian for your kids, the court will set up a guardianship to handle your money and appoint someone to take care of your children. This is expensive, time-consuming, and inflexible. Even worse, the court will have to appoint someone for this crucial role without any guidance for you.
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Will I have to pay estate tax?

Our office provides estate tax planning for those clients who need it. Currently the estate tax exemption is $11.4 million per individual and $22.8 million per married couple. Careful estate planning may reduce or eliminate estate taxes. This amount can change each year. We develop and implement strategies to reduce any potential estate tax liability through the use of tax deductions and other sophisticated planning techniques, such as life insurance trusts.

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What do I do when a loved one has died?

If you have been named as an Executor in a will, or your loved one has died without a will, we can help. The months after a loved one passes away are difficult enough, without the complications of making sure you have met every requirement of administering his or her estate. At Averett Family Law, we skillfully and compassionately assist the Personal Representative (aka the Executor or Administrator) to navigate the complex and detailed estate administration process. We walk through the process with you, step by step, and make sure that all the legal requirements and formalities are taken care of. You don’t have to navigate this on your own.

We also assist beneficiaries and other family members to understand the process, their options, and their rights. Email us today for an appointment.