Posts in Wills and Estates
Estate Planning Without Having an Estate

The term “estate planning” is often misunderstood. For many people, the word “estate” conjures up mansions and lands owned by wealthy families (think Downton Abbey or Asheville’s own Biltmore Estate). In simplest legal terms though, your estate is the sum total of all the assets (including money and property) that you own at the time of your death. Whether you own a stately home in Biltmore Forest or a trailer in Leicester—you have an estate. In part, estate planning involves making decisions during your life about what you want done with your money, property, and other assets after you are gone.

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Same-Sex Marriage is Now Legal in NC - Should You Update Your Estate Planning Documents?

Registry of Deeds offices in Western North Carolina began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples on October 13, 2014, after U.S. District Court Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr.’s ruling that “North Carolina's laws prohibiting same-sex marriage are unconstitutional as a matter of law." 

Many same-sex couples that are now legally married have asked how this change in status affects their estate planning documents. 

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Additional Estate Planning Concerns

You have a will and other estate planning documents. You have stored these documents in a safe location, and your executor knows where they are and how to access them. If this is you, you are to be congratulated for taking care of your family by being prepared. But, there may be a little more work for you to do to make sure that your affairs are handled the way you want them to be. 

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Change in Probate Law

North Carolina is one of many states that gives married couples an elective share of a deceased spouse’s estate. This means that even if you have written your spouse out of your will, he or she can still apply to receive a certain share of your estate after your death. The rules on how this share is calculated changed dramatically on October 1, 2013. The new rule applies to everyone with a death date of 10/1/2013 and after, regardless of when the marriage occurred. 


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Advance Directives Update - Living Wills

Advanced Directives, also known as Living Wills, are estate-planning documents that declare your end-of-life health care decisions. Advance care planning allows you to state your preferences about the type of health care treatments you would or would not want to receive should you become gravely ill or incapacitated. An Advanced Directive only comes into effect when you become unable to make decisions or speak for yourself.

There is a growing push for all American adults to have Advanced Directives because of the exponential rise in the cost of end-of-life health care. According an editorial in the New York Times, the top 5 percent of such patients account for nearly half of spending (more than $600 billion a year), and the cost per capita of 1 percent of such patients is $90,000 compared with $236 per capita of the bottom 50 percent.”

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Is Your Will Valid? The Importance of Execution

So you have written a simple will that clearly demonstrate your wishes regarding the disposition of your assets. Your job is done, right? Think again. A will must also be properly executed in order for it to become legally binding. Execution of a will is a technical term for the signing process. The will must be signed and witnessed according to the requirements of the law in order for it to become valid. Complications can happen in the case of an improperly executed will.

Read on to find out two of the most common issues that arise if a will is not signed or witnessed properly.

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Wills and EstatesEva Clement
Dying Without Will - Who Gets the Property

A will is a legal document that directs what happens to a person’s assets and property after their death. In North Carolina, the estate of an individual who dies without a will is distributed according to the NC Intestate Succession Act. Intestate probate is more expensive and time consuming than the probate process that occurs when a valid will is in place, and often produces unfortunate situations that would not have been the wishes of the deceased.

Many North Carolina families have lost land that had been theirs for generations because no wills were in place at the time of the owners’ deaths. Under the NC Intestate Succession Act, intestate property is divided up among legal heirs according to the type and number of surviving relatives the deceased left behind. The list of legal heirs may include a spouse, parents, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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I’m a Power of Attorney, Now What?

The process of being appointed a power of attorney for a family member or loved one can be challenging for a variety of legal and emotional reasons. The prospect of handling the financial or medical decisions for someone you care about when they are no longer capable of doing so can seem overwhelming. But having these powerful documents in place can make incredibly difficult situations much less challenging in the midst of crisis.

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