Estate planning and creating a comprehensive estate plan is essential to ensure that your assets are distributed and handled according to your wishes after your passing. A good plan also minimizes hardship for your family and reduces taxes and other fees that could deplete your estate. However, a plan is only as good as the way in which it’s administered. That’s why our law firm advises executors, administrators, trustees, and others on the best way to administer the estates of their loved ones. Whether you need help preparing your estate or overseeing one, the estate attorneys of Patrick, Harper & Dixon, LLP are here to assist you.
Estate Planning: Why You Need A Last Will and Testament
Sound estate planning begins with a last will and testament, commonly called a will. The purpose of a will is to give detailed instructions for how the executor is to handle your estate after you die. Most people think that a will concerns only the deceased person’s property and other assets, but a comprehensive will also guides the executor on how to manage the deceased’s debts and expenses. No two individuals are alike, and neither are their estates upon their passing. For this reason, you need a will that’s customized for you and your specific situation.
A will can also be used to:
- Leave assets and property to a charitable organization of your choosing
- Name a guardian to care for your minor children if you die unexpectedly
- Decide when your children should receive their inheritance (sometimes at an older age when they are more responsible)
How A Trust Can Protect Your Family
For some clients, a trust is a better option to meet their estate planning goals. A trust is simply a legal instrument by which an individual, the trustee, is obligated to hold, manage, and distribute assets for the benefit of another party, the beneficiary, in accordance with the terms of the trust agreement. The trustee and beneficiary may be the same person or they can be two different people. Our firm is skilled at drafting the following types of trusts, among others:
- Revocable living trust. This is used to manage assets during the life of the grantor (the person who makes the trust) and leave property to others after the grantor’s death. “Revocable” means the grantor can make changes to the trust during his or her lifetime. A revocable living trust can be used to avoid the probate process after the grantor dies, saving considerable expense.
- Irrevocable trust. This type of trust can be used for a number of reasons, such as to benefit someone who may not be financially responsible, to provide estate tax savings, and other advantages. Unlike a revocable living trust, an irrevocable trust cannot be changed or terminated after it is created.
- Testamentary trust. This trust is created by your last will and testament and becomes effective once you die. A testamentary trust is often used to provide for minor children in a will.
- Special needs trust. A special needs trust is used to provide for a person with a disability. Importantly, it can provide financial support without jeopardizing the beneficiary’s eligibility for Medicaid and other public programs.
- Charitable trust. As the name implies, a charitable trust is established to benefit a charitable organization. In certain types of charitable trusts, the grantor can use the funds during his or her life, knowing the money will pass to the charity after the grantor’s death.
We can also help with other types of trusts, beyond those listed above, depending on your particular needs. Your estate planning attorney will explain how a trust can meet those needs, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the various different types of trusts, and advise on the type of trust that’s right for you.
Other Estate Planning Services We Provide
Estate planning provides an array of tools to meet your financial, health care, and other objectives. Our firm also provides these estate planning services, along with others:
- Preparing a living will to address end-of-life medical treatment
- Preparing a health care power of attorney to allow others to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself
- Preparing a durable power of attorney to allow others to manage your financial and business affairs if you become incapacitated or incompetent
- Preserving as much of your assets and property as possible for your surviving family members
- Minimizing probate, estate tax, and other costs upon your death that might otherwise deplete your estate
Assisting Executors And Trustees With Their Estate Administration Duties
Administering an estate or a trust can be complex. If you’ve been named an executor or trustee, or if the court has appointed you to administer an estate, we can help you navigate the rules and procedures that you need to follow.
For executors and administrators, we assist with the following:
- Gathering any necessary legal or financial paperwork, including the death certificate
- Admitting the will to probate and obtaining the letters testamentary so you can manage the estate
- Collecting, valuing, and completing a proper inventory of the estate assets
- Paying the estate debts and dealing with third-party creditors
- Distributing assets to the estate’s beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the will or North Carolina law, if there was no will
Finally, we work with trustees to ensure the trusts under their supervision are managed properly for the beneficiaries. Some of the specific duties we help trustees with include:
- Making sure you understand the terms of the trust and your responsibilities as a trustee
- Handling the accounting, valuation, and record-keeping requirements for the trust assets you oversee
- Distributing assets to the trust beneficiaries in accordance with the terms of the trust
- Assisting with trust modification, if needed (a process that requires court approval)
Contact Our Hickory Estate Planning And Administration Attorney
Although estate planning can seem overwhelming, it’s an absolutely essential part of planning for your and your family’s future. The responsibility of administering an estate or trust is an equally important task. Whether you’re planning or managing an estate, our experienced legal counsel is here to guide you. Reach out to Patrick, Harper & Dixon to schedule your initial consultation.