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Estate Planning Terms

If you or a loved one contacts me regarding estate planning, we may discuss the following legal tools. A good estate plan is more than just a simple will.

Will: A will is a legal instrument that allows a person to dispose of his property at his death. A will does not have any effect during a person’s lifetime. As long as the individual is competent, he can amend or change his will at any time during his lifetime.

Trust: A revocable living trust is a substitute for a will, and it allows the person creating the trust (grantor) to act as trustee and control her assets while alive, yet avoid probate (court-directed administration of the estate) at her death. If the individual becomes disabled or incapacitated, a successor trustee may take over the management of the trust property while the grantor (creator of the trust) is disabled, thus avoiding guardianship proceedings. A testamentary trust is a trust created at an individual’s death pursuant to her will and does not hold assets until it is set up and funded after the individual’s death. This trust does not avoid probate.

Durable Power of Attorney: This is a legal instrument giving another person or entity, whether a family member, friend, or corporate entity, full authority to act on your behalf should you become disabled or need their assistance with your finances (managing your assets and paying your bills).

Health Care Power of Attorney: If an individual is unable to make or communicate her health care decisions, another individual (health care agent) is given the power to make these decisions and judgements on her behalf. The health care agent may be a spouse, child, family member, or trusted friend.

If you decide not to exercise your right to make an estate plan, then the state of North Carolina has made one for you; see the North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 29.

Below are links to several documents I have prepared that will be helpful in the process of planning your estate.