None of us enjoy thinking about our mortality. We would all prefer to believe that we will live forever. Wills, Living Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Trusts can be scary words that most of us never want to think about. They can raise touchy subjects and lead to difficult conversations, but these conversations are important ones to engage in.
Plenty of issues arise from a failure to plan for the future, not the least being the increase in your family members’ stress. If you don’t have a will, the government decides who gets your money and property, and it may not go to your intended loved ones. Failure to plan can increase the cost and expenses of handling your affairs, with an average of a 125% increase in attorney fees, court fees, administrative fees, and bonds. Then there is the potential for increases in your tax liability, health, and long-term care expenses. Without proper planning and preparation, the need for costly guardianships or conservatorships may arise.
Understanding the necessary documentation is helpful to begin a dialogue with your loved ones. A will is simply a document that tells the world how you would like your property distributed after your death, and it requires proper execution under the law. Once the will is properly executed, your property will be distributed among your survivors according to your wishes.
When dividing your property, it is helpful to think about your property in three parts. One part is your tangible property; items such as jewelry, clothing, furniture, cars, and boats. Making a list of these items and who you would like to receive them is an essential first step. The next part involves making decisions about your real estate, including land and homes. Part three divides up your intangible items, such as stocks and bonds, retirement accounts, and cash. Choosing a trusted person as your executor is part of this process. The executor is the person charged with ensuring your heirs get the property you have designated for them. There are many other details such as minor children, grandchildren, special bequests to churches and charities, and trusts that may need attention. Discuss these with your attorney, who can help you navigate through them.
A Power of Attorney is a document designed to allow someone you trust to handle your financial affairs when you are unable and need someone to manage them for you. A good example would be if you were out of the country. A Power of Attorney can be durable, which means it survives incompetency and allows someone to handle your financial affairs when you are mentally unable to manage them yourself. Planning by having these documents drawn up for you will prevent the need for costly guardianships and conservatorships.
A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a document that allows a trusted person to deal with doctors, hospitals, nurses, and insurance companies when you are unable to do so. If you are in a car accident and unconscious, for example, it allows that person to talk to the doctors about your care.
One last important document is a Living Will. In North Carolina, it is often referred to as “A Declaration of Desire for Life Prolonging Measures.” This document tells the world how you wish to be medically treated if you are un- able to communicate. An example of when a Living Will be- comes critical is when someone is in a coma or nearing the end of a terminal illness and is on life support.
Although the internet may seem like a great way to create a will, these wills are often not correctly executed. They tend to be too general and omit important language that is required in North Carolina. Online wills are generic as they are not tailored to meet your personal needs. As a
result, they often do not reflect your specific wishes.
Having these four documents prepared by a competent attorney and in accordance with North Carolina law will give you and your family peace of mind. You can rest assured that your wishes will be carried out. If you have not considered this before, now is the right time.
Kenneth Ording, Esq, Managing Partner
Blackburn & Ording, PLLC
712 Country Club Drive
Hampstead, NC 28443