Estate Planning

Our firm handles estate planning matters for estates which are valued at less than the applicable estate-tax exemption amounts. We provide consultation and drafting of wills, revocable trusts, durable powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney, and living wills.  Our estate planning packages start at $350 for individual packages or $600 for husband and wife packages.  

Call us today (or submit the form below and someone from our office will contact you) to schedule your initial consultation.

Estate Planning FAQ’s:

What Happens if I die without a valid Last Will and Testament in NC?

If you die without a valid last will and testament, unlike many people think, your property will not automatically go to the State and under many circumstances, will not automatically all go to your spouse.  In NC, the property for which you have not otherwise designated valid beneficiaries will pass through a statutorily provided succession method known as “intestate succession.”  Under NC’s intestate succession laws, both your spouse and your children will share in the ownership of the assets in your estate, depending in part upon the number of children you have and may depend upon whether your spouse is your first spouse or subsequent spouse.

I just moved to NC from another state, do I need to have my will re-done?

NCGS 31-46 provides that an out-of-state will is valid if it meets the requirements for probate in this State or if it was validly executed in accordance with the laws of the state in which it was executed at the time of it was executed; or if the execution of the will complies with the laws of the place where the testator was domiciled at the time of execution (or at the time of death).

J&M cannot  opine as to whether a will was executed in accordance with the requirements of another state’s laws at the time of execution and will typically not opine as to whether an out-of-state will complies with requirements (esp. the self-proving requirements) of this State unless the provisions in the will are practically identical to the requirements for probate of self-proving wills in this State.

Thus, if you are permanently moving to NC, J&M recommends in almost every instance that you should have your wills reviewed and redone to ensure that your wills comply with NC’s statutory requirements for probate (especially if you intend to make any changes), so you will be confident that your wills can be probated in NC.

What is an executor/Who can qualify to act as an executor?

An executor is the person chosen (by a testator –person making a Will) to carry out the provisions of his or her Last Will and Testament. Generally, the executor is responsible for gathering all the probate assets of the testator, paying the testators debts and expenses and distributing the testator’s assets to beneficiaries in accordance with the testator’s directions in his/her Will.  Some persons who cannot qualify to act as an executor in North Carolina include any person who: is under 18 years of age; has been deemed incompetent in a judicial proceeding; has been convicted of a felony; is illiterate; or is deemed to be unsuitable by the Clerk.  N.C.G.S. Sec. 28A-4-2.

Do I need estate-tax planning?

Johnson & Moore does not provide advice relating to estate-tax matters and does not currently draft estate planning documents with complex estate-tax planning provisions. You should consult with your tax advisor as to whether your estate is of sufficient sizeto warrant estate-tax planning methods.  As of the beginning of 2015, the federal estate tax generally only applies to taxable estates in excess of $5 million.

If you are not sure whether your estate warrants estate-tax planning in your overall estate plan, please consult your tax advisor.

What are probate costs and how do I minimize them?

Probate costs are basically the court costs associated with a decedent’s estate and are generally based on all personal property the decedent owned at the time of his death for which a beneficiary has not otherwise been selected.  {In North Carolina probate costs are $120 plus 40 cents ($0.40) per $100 of value of the probate estate (with a maximum fee of $6,000).  NCGS Section 7A-307.}

One method of minimizing costs of probate is to designate beneficiaries on your various bank & investment accounts or to own such accounts with someone else as joint tenants with right of survivorship.  Another method of reducing probate costs is to hold your assets in a revocable living trust.  Talk to your investment advisor and/or banker about designating beneficiaries on your accounts and talk with one of our attorneys about the benefits and burdens of a revocable living trust.

What is a living Will?

A living will or Declaration of Desire for a Natural Death is a declaration from the executor to his/her physician as to the declarant’s preferences for providing/withholding life support measures under certain situations involving terminal illness, coma, dementia, brain death and similar life ending situations.

What is a health care power of attorney?

A health care power of attorney allows your designee (health care agent) to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so (if you are unconscious or in a coma for ex.).  The person you designate to make your health care decisions is known as your health care agent or health care attorney in fact.  A health care power of attorney is only valid while the person for whom the agent is acting is alive.

What is a durable power of attorney?

A durable power of attorney allows someone else to act in your place with regard to business and financial matters.  This type of power of attorney can be effective even if you are competent to handle such affairs yourself (for example you can grant POA to your spouse to sign legal documents on your behalf when you are out of town).  The person you designate to assist you with handling your business and financial affairs is knows as your “attorney in fact” or “AIF.”   As with the health care power of attorney a durable power of attorney is only valid while the person for whom the AIF is acting is alive.

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