Estate planning isn’t only about what happens to your assets after your death—it’s an essential part of your overall financial, health and life plan. Now is the time to begin making those choices.
Whether it’s creating a will, writing a living trust, drafting a Health Care Power of Attorney or creating a plan with specific terms for individuals and charitable organizations, you’ll be glad you took these steps.
Even if you feel you don’t have “significant assets,” your estate is important and should be protected and managed according to your needs and wants.
An estate planning attorney can help you draft the important documents that will legally ensure the distribution of your assets and the decisions that will be made about your medical care, business, children and legacy. He or she can help you craft a strategy to reduce estate taxes and help ensure the financial security of your spouse or partner and descendants. It all depends on your wishes.
What are your estate planning options?
While everyone’s needs are different, here are some options available that can help you plan for the future:
• Last will and testament
Your will and testament is a legally binding document that allows you to name a guardian for your children and identifies who will inherit your property after you die. Without a will, you have no say in what happens to your property, assets or children.
• Estate planning
Estate planning puts you in charge of your finances and frees your family any of the costs, delays and frustrations that they would otherwise encounter managing your affairs after your death or disability.
• Living will
A living will is a health care directive that protects your medical treatment preferences if you become unable to express them yourself. It removes the burden of decision from family members who would not want to make those choices and ensures they will not be made by medical doctors or by the state.
• Health Care Power of Attorney
Drafting a Health Care Power of Attorney enables you to choose someone close to you to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to communicate them yourself. The document protects your wishes and prevents them from being changed.
A trust is a document prepared by a trust attorney that lets you specify to whom, how and when your assets will be distributed after your death. In a trust, you appoint an individual or corporation as a “trustee” to manage your property upon your incapacity or death.
Why hire an estate planning attorney?
Estate planning is serious business—not least because it concerns decisions that would otherwise be made for you in the event of your incapacitation or death. Estate planning attorneys are specially trained to draft the documents that protect your assets and wishes in accordance with the state’s laws.
While there is no shortage of companies offering do-it-yourself documents, only a trained estate planning attorney can guarantee that your documents are legally binding, up to date and compliant. In short, when you’re looking for peace of mind, your attorney is as important as your documents.
Depending on your personal situation, there are additional reasons why an estate planning attorney will be instrumental in assuring your wishes are carried out:
It’s a common misconception that estate planning is for the elderly or ill. Many young families disregard this vital procedure, not realizing that only guardianship decisions that are put into writing and made legal will ensure that their children will be cared for properly after an unforeseeable event.
Additionally, there are more complex issues than simply naming a legal guardian. Setting up a will and/or living trust dictates how your children will be cared for and provided for financially.
These are complicated and important issues that should be considered. The estate planning attorneys at Wilson & Reives will ensure that any concerns regarding your children are legally set in the event that anything happens to you.
If you own or participate in a joint business, distributing your assets or transferring ownership after your death or incapacitation will be a complex arrangement. While many business owners specify in their filings the course of action that should be taken in these situations, not every business does—especially businesses formed decades ago, businesses owned between friends and family members and new businesses.
In order to legally dispose of your business through your will or trust and make sure your intent is honored, very specific legal phrases must be utilized—and a skilled estate planning attorney will know exactly how to arrange this. He or she will make sure the necessary documentations are on file with investment agencies, and that any necessary paperwork is accessible in the same location as your will or trust document, making transitions smoother for your beneficiaries.
The estate planning attorneys at Wilson & Reives will not only put these documents in place for you in place for you, they’ll also ensure your assets are structured properly and your business stays in full compliance.
Your medical wishes
Beyond the distribution of your assets and the care of your children, estate planning lawyers can also help you draft documents that protect your wishes regarding medical care and powers of attorney.
This is often one of the thorniest areas for a family to navigate—determining your wishes regarding medical care after you fall into a vegetative state, for example, or making your burial plan—if you don’t create legal documents that outline and guarantee your wishes. These documents not only remove a terrible burden of stress and decision making from your grieving family, they can also make sure that your arrangements will be funded ahead of need.
The skilled estate planners at Wilson & Reives know the state requirements and can advise you on which documents will be necessary to ensure your wishes are met and your beneficiaries and descendants are provided for.
How do I begin my estate planning?
Your first meeting with your estate planning attorney will ideally be an educational one. After you outline your desires and the outlook of your assets, he or she will provide you with specific guidance and information that will benefit you, your business and your beneficiaries. You’ll leave your meeting with a clear plan of action and steps to ensure your affairs are set up in the best possible way for your family.
And your last meeting? Your estate planning documents are living documents that need to be reviewed and updated throughout your personal or business life. The estate planning attorneys at Wilson & Reives will keep everything up to date for you, review your documents regularly and offer a program to provide you with as much continuing guidance as you need. Work with us, and your documents will not fall out of date or out of legal compliance.
Come in and consult with us about drafting the document that protect your wishes, provide for your heirs and meet all legal regulations. The attorneys at Wilson & Reives have extensive knowledge of North Carolina laws and are here to provide you with trusted, effective legal counsel.