By Whitney Young
Although an unpopular topic at times, an estate plan is simply preparation for the inevitable – incapacitation and/or death. Through an estate plan you can protect your assets, recommend guardians for your children, specify your wishes for medical treatment, delineate what property goes to whom, etc. Absent an estate plan, these decisions are left to the courts, the process of which can delay financial support to children and spouses, increase the cost of attorney’s fees, invoke unnecessary taxes, etc. Thus, the saying “the worst estate plan is no estate plan.”
The estate planning process is ongoing. Although it’s possible to anticipate some life events that could change your estate plan (i.e. the birth of another child, the acquisition of more property, the untimely death of an heir, etc.), it is impossible to anticipate everything that could happen. Additionally, estate law in North Carolina and elsewhere is ever changing, and what was legally acceptable at the time your estate plan was drafted, may not be legally acceptable ten or twenty years later. These are reasons to have your plan reviewed by an estate planning attorney periodically to ensure that your estate plan documents adequately convey your plan for your current situation.
Here at The Twiford Law Firm, the estate planning process begins with a consultation with an attorney. Based on your circumstances, personal assets, and desires for the same, the attorney will recommend a plan, tailored for you, which usually includes the following documents:
A Last Will and Testament, or "Will," provides instructions to your survivors as to how you want your assets to be distributed and appoints a person as Executor and Trustee to control and manage your assets. Additionally, this document will recommend a Guardian for any minor children. In the event you choose to set up a trust, this document will do so as well.
We generally include the following documents as well, in the event you are rendered incapacitated:
A Living Will is a document that delineates your wishes regarding continued life support.
A Health Care Power of Attorney names a person to communicate with medical providers and make health care decisions on your behalf.
A Financial Power of Attorney names a person to make financial decisions on your behalf.
A Health Care Consent for Children document names a person to communicate with medical providers and make health care decisions regarding your minor children on your behalf.
After you’ve had your attorney consultation and have made a decision regarding your tailored estate plan, The Twiford Law Firm will prepare your plan documents, review them with you, make any necessary edits, and ensure your plan documents are signed and notarized properly. Additionally, we will file your powers of attorney with the appropriate clerk of court.