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Protect Yourself and Your Family through Smart Estate Planning

A Customized Estate Plan has Many Benefits for You and Your Family

When planning be sure you take steps to protect yourself and your family, with a customized estate plan. By making smart decisions today you can create the future of your choice.

When talking with a lawyer about your planning, he or she will have various questions to ask you. It’s important that your lawyer understand your individual needs and create a customized estate plan to meet your objectives.

With guidance, you should expect to gain peace of mind that your long-term needs will be met, that your assets will be protected for the benefit of the person or persons you decide. And, most importantly, your family will be protected if the unthinkable should occur.

If you think you are too young, too old, or don’t have enough assets to put together an estate plan, think again. It’s never too early or too late to prepare.

If You Wonder, “How do I know if I need an Estate Plan?”

Some particularly compelling reasons to make sure you get your estate planning done are as follows:

Either you or your spouse have children from a previous marriage.

When spouses have children by a previous marriage, one spouse’s children may get left out, or conflict may arise between the stepspouse and the stepchildren, between the children or between the parent. Do you have a current plan in place to prevent this and promote peace in your family?

You are self employed or own rental property.

If you are self employed or have rental property, keep in mind that there is a significant time delay before a personal representative is appointed to care for rental property or your business in your absence. Essentially, there will be a period of time where your rental property and/or business have to go on “auto pilot.” Are you prepared for this?

You have minor children or other minor beneficiaries (e.g., grandchildren).

If anyone whom you wish to leave money is under the age of 18, they will be unable to inherit your money in North Carolina without the Court appointing a Guardian to make decisions for the minor. If this occurs, Court costs can eat up a lot of a child’s inheritance. There is also the issue that money the minor may need to live on will be tied up for a lengthy period of time. If a child has predeceased you, you may want to make special provisions for their share for that child’s minor children (i.e., your grandchildren). Have you properly planned for your minors?

You or a close family member is terminally ill, have failing health or may become incapacitated.

If you or a close family member are terminally ill or incapacitated, you will not be able to make decisions on behalf of yourself or the family member unless you plan ahead. If don’t direct who can make decisions for you and when they can make those decisions, you again are doomed to the Court making that decision for you. Proper planning will avoid unnecessary spending on Court costs and you will be ensuring that the person you trust the most will be able to make decisions for you in the event that you are not able.

You have a taxable estate.

With proper planning, you can easily avoid unnecessary estate taxes. Does your current plan allow you to do this?

You or a family member has a substance abuse problem.

If you have a family member who is an abuser of drugs or alcohol, it is up to you to prevent your money, more commonly known as their inheritance, from being contributed to the local bar, liquor store or drug dealer. Does your current plan ensure that you will not be contributing to the problems of your loved ones?

You have a child who may not be responsible or is married to someone who may not be responsible.

Do you have inheritance protection for a child who may be subjected to a spendthrift spouse, divorce, lawsuits, creditors or bankruptcy? Do you have a child who has a problem with shopping impulse control? If so, there is a way that you can control and minimize this risk through proper planning. Keep in mind that the average inheritance, regardless of the size, is completely spent within 18 months of receipt. Proper planning on your part can help to preserve your wealth for future generations and ensure that your hard earned assets are not blown unnecessarily.

You have an IRA or a 401(k) account.

Retirement accounts are almost never coordinated with an individual’s estate plan, which could result in a tax problem. It is important to put the planning in place to ensure that these plans can continue to grow tax deferred for future generations to come.

You co-own bank accounts.

If one joint account owner becomes mentally disabled, the account may become frozen. Assets may also pass to unintended persons at death. Any person who ends up with the property after the passing of a joint owner may also find themselves inheriting a huge tax liability. You may also be exposing your property interest to unintended creditors. Proper planning will prevent this from happening.

You have a disabled child or are responsible for a dependent adult.

Disabled children and dependent adults require special planning to ensure that they are not going to lose any public assistance or benefits that they are currently receiving. Are you putting someone’s government benefits at jeopardy?

You have a simple will in place now.

Simple wills are not appropriate for everyone. Used improperly, a simple will can lead to major problems, including subjecting someone to unnecessary estate tax. Even a simple will may fail if you have not properly titled your property. Joint ownership may cause a will to fail. Are you sure that a simple will is right for you?

You have no planning in place.

If you don’t have a will or a trust, the state of North Carolina has already written a will for you. Will your property pass to those whom you want to share it with? Will your estate be subject to litigation to decide who gets your property?

You have an old estate plan in place.

I often see North Carolina estate plans that haven’t been updated in almost 20 years. Consider all the changes in your life and in the law that have occurred over that period of time. Will you miss out on a planning opportunity by not keeping your estate plan up to date?

About the author

The Elderlaw Firm

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