Estate Planning is the process of planning how all the things one accumulates during a lifetime are distributed and handled following a person’s death.
While there are many factors determining the complexity of the estate planning process, each can be simplified with the guidance of an experienced North Carolina estate planning lawyer. The planning process covers a wide variety of issues which are sometimes difficult to consider and discuss. The designed outcome is to create effective documents that legally specify your wishes in the event something happens to you or your loved ones. Focus is given toward protecting assets, minimizing fees and tax liability, and creating contingencies for decisions to be made in the event you are incapable of doing so.
Effective estate planning takes into consideration your larger financial picture, including your home, real estate holdings, investments, life insurance, employee and retirement benefits, and the succession of your business holdings. It also considers and defines your wishes in the event of your death or disability on matters regarding health care, end-of-life decisions and who will care for your minor children.
Once the planning process is complete, clearly crafted and legally sound documents will codify your wishes and protect your estate from unnecessary litigation expense caused by will and trust contests or caveats. The most common of those protective documents might include:
- Your Will. This document is sometimes referred to as a Last Will and Testament. It dictates the disposition of your assets upon your death.
- A Revocable Living Trust. Living Trusts are sometimes necessary estate planning tools used along side your Will. Among other things, the living trusts controls how certain of your assets are handled for a period of time after your death, or upon certain requirements being met.
- Durable Power of Attorney. The purpose of this legal document is to empower another to direct personal and business matters on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. This document also sets limitations on those granted powers and may also name a person to act as your guardian should you ever become incapacitated.
- Declaration of Desire for a Natural Death. This document is sometimes known as an advance directive document. It is used specifically to set forth your wishes regarding your medical care in the event of terminal illness or catastrophic accident.
- Health Care Power of Attorney. This legal document provides direction relative to your medical care in the event you are unable to make decisions. Like a Durable Power of Attorney, it appoints a person to make care-related decisions on your behalf when you are incapacitated due to injury or illness.