Who will make financial and medical decisions for you if you ever become incapacitated? How will your assets be distributed after you pass away? Who will care for your children?
If you do not know the answers to these questions, you need to engage in estate planning now. It may involve something as basic as drafting a will and power of attorney instrument or as complex as developing a series of trusts or a business succession plan. An experienced wills and estates lawyer from Strickland Agner Pittman can carefully guide you through the process and help you to put plans in place that will meet your goals. We can also assist with any issues you encounter when handling a loved one’s estate after he or she dies.
We believe in working closely with our clients in Goldsboro and throughout North Carolina and providing the highly personalized attention they deserve. Contact us today to learn more about the will and estate services we can provide to you and your family.
Why Do You Need an Estate Planning Attorney?
Many people believe that estate planning is only for those who own a significant amount of assets or who have serious medical issues. This simply is not true. No matter the status of your health or wealth, you and your loved ones will ultimately benefit if you engage in estate planning.
Especially, developing an estate plan can ensure:
- Your financial and health care wishes are carried out. You can put a plan in place that gives power of attorney to someone you trust. This person can make decisions about your finances and medical care when your physical and/or mental condition prevents you from doing so.
- Your assets are distributed as you wish. By drafting a will, you can control who will receive shares of your estate and/or specific property items that you want passed on such as a car, home, jewelry or family heirlooms. If you die without a will or intestate, your property will be distributed according to state laws. (In other words, you will have no say in what happens to your property.)
- Your loved ones’ future care and needs are met. If you have minor or disabled children, you can name a guardian to care for them upon your death. You can also establish one or more trusts to provide funds in the future for your family members or even a charity that you care deeply about.
- Your estate avoids harsh tax consequences. By carefully planning and structuring your estate, you can help your loved ones to avoid paying estate and inheritance taxes. (North Carolina no longer has such taxes, but these taxes may come into play if property from another state is involved.)
- You can carry on with your life with peace of mind. By putting a solid estate plan in place, it can give you control of your estate’s future and give you a sense of comfort in knowing how your loved ones’ needs will be met.
How Do You Develop an Estate Plan?
Developing an estate plan starts by contacting Strickland Agner Pittman at our Goldsboro office. An Estate Lawyer can meet with you right away, discuss your estate planning goals and explore the many estate planning tools that we can use to help you meet those objectives.
Before you meet with us, you may wish to create a list that takes into account all of your property, including:
- Real estate (home, land, vacation property)
- Personal property (car, boat, appliances, furniture, jewelry, collectibles, heirlooms)
- Business assets (full or partial ownership interests)
- Life insurance
- Money market accounts
- Pension or retirement accounts.
We can assist you in compiling this list and work with professionals on determining how factors such as inflation or depreciation may impact the value of your assets in the future.
You should also think of whom you may want to make decisions for you if you become incapacitated and whom you wish to name as beneficiaries. We can then help you to prepare a set of documents that may include all or some of the following:
- Power of attorney – A durable power of attorney is an instrument that will give a person the authority to handle your financial affairs when you are unable to do so, including paying your bills. A health care power of attorney gives the authority to a person to make decisions about your medical care. You may wish to give these powers to one person or two different people.
- Will – This is a basic estate planning document that names a person who will handle your estate after you die (executor), including resolving any outstanding medical and funeral bills, paying taxes and distributing property to your beneficiaries as you wish. A will may leave legacies (money) or bequests (specific property items) to your beneficiaries, or it may provide for gifts to one or more charities. A will may also name guardians for your minor or disabled children. A will can be as comprehensive as you would like. An attorney from our firm can make sure that the will is properly signed and executed so it is valid. We can also help if you wish to make any changes to the will.
- Trusts – A living trust, in particular, can allow you to stay in charge of your assets and benefit from them while, at the same time, establishing a trustee to assume control of the fund and follow your instructions in the event you become incapacitated or die. A trust can provide for children or grandchildren. For instance, many people establish a trust fund to pay for a loved one’s future education.
- Business succession – If you own a small business, you can also put plans in place for how operation and/or ownership will be transferred when you retire, become incapacitated or pass away. This could be especially important if you wish for all or part of your interest in the business to stay with your family.
Do You Need Help Handling Your Loved One’s Estate?
If you have been named the executor of a loved one’s will, you may need assistance with carrying out your duties, including:
- Identifying all of your loved one’s assets and debts
- Giving notice to beneficiaries and distributing property to them
- Giving notice to your loved one’s creditors and paying all bills
- Conducting a final accounting of your loved one’s estate.
In some cases, disputes may arise concerning the validity of a will or how it is being carried out.
Strickland Agner Pittman can help you to work through these and any other issues you may encounter while handling your loved one’s estate. We know that dealing with a loved one’s death can be difficult enough. Our goal will be to minimize your stress as you carry out your loved one’s wishes.
Our Goldsboro Estate Lawyers Can Help You
You should not wait to make plans for the care of your finances and your health and for the handling of your estate after you pass. Get in touch with Strickland Agner Pittman today to discuss how we can put our many years of helping clients with wills and estates to work for you.