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Sanford Law Firm Estate Planning and Elder Law Blog

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Five Estate Planning Documents You Should Understand Part I

Part I

 

An Estate Plan can take many forms and it is up to you and your advisors to choose the best plan.  Your plan should fit your particular circumstances and accomplish your objectives whether they are to avoid probate, minimize taxes, or to protect assets from loss due to nursing home costs or other potential creditors.  

 

A good estate plan will, at the very least, appoint someone to make financial and medical decisions for you at times in your life when you cannot and then avoid probate after you pass away.  Thus, you should at least have a will and a power of attorney for both financial management and health care.  There are other documents that should be considered as well including trusts and various medical directives. 

 

When most people think about estate planning documents the first thing that pops into their head (after they wake back up) is usually a will.  Everyone has at least heard of a will even though they might not fully understand its function. 

 

A will is just a legally binding letter of direction to the world, and more importantly, the court/state, telling them who is supposed to get your “stuff” after you have passed away.  Your will must meet certain requirements set out by state law in order to be valid.  The most common is that it must be witnessed by two disinterested people and notarized by a notary public.  In addition to directing where your stuff goes, a will also appoints a person charged with carrying out your wishes.  This person is commonly referred to as an executor or personal representative.  In addition you can also appoint a person to take care of you minor children.

 

The important thing to remember regarding a will is that it does nothing until you pass away.  Up to that point you can change it every day if you would like.  One can change the terms of the will through what is called a “Codicil.” It is also important to keep in mind that the executor has no authority, duties or obligations until after you pass away.  Decisions concerning your person and your stuff during your lifetime are made by you and persons you appoint in your powers of attorney.

 

In Part II we will discuss Durable Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney.

 

 

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Based in Charlotte, NC the attorneys at Sanford Law Firm, PA assist clients throughout North Carolina including Charlotte, Monroe, Cornelius, Gastonia, Mecklenburg County, Cabarrus County, Lincoln County, Iredell County, Catawba County, Gaston County, Rowan County, Union County, Pineville, NC and Matthews, NC.



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