For anyone who has a large estate, a good estate plan is essential to ensuring that your assets are properly protected with minimal tax liability. Estate plans are also important for smaller estates, and in North Carolina, a Raleigh estate planning attorney can help owners of smaller estates.

What does a good estate plan entail? How will a North Carolina estate planning lawyer help you develop the estate plan that is right for you? If you’ll continue reading, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you will also learn how to get the estate planning process started.

Having the right estate plan is essential for everyone – not just the wealthy and famous – who wants to guard their assets and care for their loved ones. The best estate planning does away with any confusion and provides you with genuine peace of mind.

When Should You Begin the Estate Planning Process?

You should consult with an estate planning lawyer in the Raleigh area promptly if you own your own home, if you own your own business, or if you support your loved ones. No one can know what tomorrow will bring, so it is never too early to begin the estate planning process.

If you want your assets to be transferred to one or more of your loved ones after you pass away, you should establish an estate plan. With an effective estate plan, your family can make sure that your wishes are met and your instructions are followed if you cannot express them yourself.

If You Are Named

Losing a loved one is one of the toughest situations a family can face. Managing that loved one’s estate, with or without guidance from a last will and testament, can increase that difficulty.

If you are named as a trustee or as the executor or administrator of an estate, you must comply with all state and federal laws and see that the decedent’s instructions are followed. How can you have confidence and certainty? The right lawyer can offer sound, timely guidance and advice.

With a smaller estate, when the time comes, your family may be able to settle your estate using a simplified probate procedure. Small estate laws in many states enable beneficiaries to receive the property and assets of the decedent without probate or at least with quicker probate proceedings.

How Does North Carolina’s “Small Estate” Law Work?

North Carolina estates that are valued below $20,000 (after estate debts and liens are paid) qualify for the state’s small estate procedures. If the only heir is the decedent’s spouse, estates that are valued below $30,000 qualify. Real property values are not included in these valuations.

Deadlines and other requirements must be met before an eligible estate may proceed with the small estate process. You will have to pay a court fee and prepare a number of documents with your attorney’s help. The small estate process is a great option for many North Carolina families.

Small estates can be administered less expensively, and the process is substantially quicker. A North Carolina probate attorney can examine an estate and review the estate planning documents and other pertinent documents to determine if the estate qualifies for the small estate process.

Why Should You Consider Creating an Estate Plan?

Even with quicker probate proceedings for smaller estates in North Carolina, if yours is a smaller estate, you should still consider creating an estate plan with help from a North Carolina estate planning attorney, for reasons including but not limited to these:

The right estate plan protects your family and provides your assets with the maximum legal and financial protection. An estate plan preserves your assets, reduces waiting times for disbursements, and ensures that your instructions are followed when that time comes.

An estate plan lets you decide who inherits your property and assets. When you establish a will or a trust, you name your heirs, and you name an executor to manage your estate, pay its debts and taxes, distribute the remaining assets, and close the estate.

Your estate plan can include a durable power of attorney that appoints someone to manage your legal and financial affairs should you become incapable as well as a healthcare proxy that lets someone make medical decisions for you based on your wishes.

A durable power of attorney may take effect at the time you sign it, or it may be written so that it goes into effect only when a physician confirms that you are incapacitated. It’s a document that can provide your loved ones with the guidance they may need – at a time when you can’t.

Should You Choose a Will or a Trust?

A proper estate plan begins with a will or a trust. A last will and testament spells out how your assets and property are to be divided and transferred upon your death, and you can also name a guardian for your minor children in your will.

However, wills are subject to the probate process in North Carolina, and because it is a public record, a will makes your private financial affairs accessible to anyone. If privacy is a concern, you may instead want to consider a living trust, which is comparable in some ways to a will.

A living trust spells out how your assets and property are to be divided and distributed and who will act as the guardian to your minor children. A living trust also lets you name a trustee to ensure that the trust is managed properly and that your instructions are followed closely.

What is the Advantage of a Living Trust?

The primary advantage of a living trust is that it is not subject to probate. You can even use a living trust to help you manage your property and assets throughout your life.

The right Raleigh estate planning lawyer can help you create a will, a trust, a healthcare proxy, or a durable power of attorney. Your attorney can also help with the reduction of estate taxes, a special needs trust for a disabled loved one, and a full range of estate planning services.

It does not matter if your circumstances are affluent or modest. Whatever your personal situation is, you can learn more, discuss your estate planning needs, or begin the estate planning process by promptly arranging to meet with a Raleigh estate planning attorney.