Estate Planning FAQs

What is a will?
A will is a person’s written request addressing how they want their assets to be distributed upon their death. Generally, a valid will must be made by a testator over the age of 18, in writing, and executed with testamentary intent. Also, it must be signed in the presence of two witnesses, whom also sign in the testator’s presence.
Do I need a will?
A will is an important document to ensure your wishes are followed after your death. If a testator does not make a will, or a previous will is destroyed or revoked, the testator’s estate will be distributed according to North Carolina state law, which may very well not coincide with your wishes.
Additionally, an older will may not sufficiently address your current circumstances. It is important to review your will to ensure the provisions are up-to-date. It is a good idea to review your will after a life-changing event such as the birth of a child, adoption, marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse. An experienced attorney can draft a will so that assets are not overlooked and can prevent property from being distributed in a manner that is inconsistent with your wishes.
What is intestacy?
Intestacy occurs where a testator dies without a valid will. If this happens, the North Carolina Intestacy rules govern the share of the estate passed down to the surviving spouse, parent, or other family members depending on the specific circumstances.
What is a living will?
A living will is a document that outlines your medical wishes upon incapacity. It can include provisions about food and water, life support, donation of body organs, and any directives to your physician.
What is a health care power of attorney?
A health care power of attorney (“HCPOA”) is a document that authorizes a specific person to make medical decisions for you. A HCPOA is only effective once you become incapacitated. It outlines specific provisions that may include withholding life pro-longing measures, mental health or long-term treatment, and organ donation.
What is a power of attorney?
A power of attorney (“POA”) is a document that provides very broad financial powers to a trusted person of your choice. The main purpose is to appoint a trusted person to manage your property and financial affairs upon either execution or incapacity. A POA can include granting a person the ability to manage bank accounts, pay bills, collect money, and sell and purchase real property. The powers granted in a POA can be tailored to your specific requests, but are often very broad so as to apply to different circumstances.
What is a durable power of attorney?
A durable power of attorney (“DPOA”) is an alternative to a power of attorney. A DPOA contains specific language which provides that your POA should not be affected by your incapacity. Also, a DPOA can be written so that it does not become effective until your incapacity or mental incompetence.
What is a trust?
There are many different types of trusts; however, generally, a trust is an arrangement where a third party (also known as a trustee) holds legal title to the property for the benefit of the beneficiaries. A trustee then manages, invests, and protects the property for the beneficiaries. A trust can include money, property, and a variety of other property.
When do I need to set up a trust?
A trust can be advantageous to transfer property upon your death without the formalities of a will, to avoid probate, and to protect your assets against creditors. Also, a trust is also important if there is a chance a minor could be a beneficiary under your will. In this scenario, you may want a trust to ensure that the property to be received by a minor is not actually received until the minor reaches a certain age. A trust can also help you avoid certain estate taxes.