Charlotte Estate Planning FAQs

At Arnold & Smith, PLLC, we help many Charlotte, Mooresville, and Monroe residents successfully create estate plans that suit their unique needs. Many people in the United States do not have a will or any type of estate plan in place. When a person passes away in North Carolina without a will or trust in place, a North Carolina probate court will distribute his or her assets according to North Carolina’s Intestacy Laws. We can help you create a thorough and effective estate plan that avoids some of the downfalls of intestate distribution. We have also listed some of the most common questions we are asked regarding estate plans below. Contact our Charlotte, Mooresville, and Monroe estate planning law firm today to schedule your consultation.

What is Estate Planning?

Estate planning involves creating a will or trust to direct the distribution of your assets after you pass away. Should you pass away in North Carolina without a valid will in place, your estate could pass down to someone you would not have chosen to inherit your assets through intestacy laws. By creating an estate plan, you are in control of who receives your assets. Creating an estate plan can also provide tax savings and asset protection for you and your beneficiaries. Estate plans are not limited to creating a will or trust, however. They can also include legal documents regarding end of life decision-making, a durable power of attorney to make legal or financial decisions, and a medical power of attorney.

What is Probate?

Probate is the process by which North Carolina courts supervise the distribution of a person's estate after he or she passes away. The probate court only has the power, or jurisdiction, to distribute probate assets. Thus, the probate court does not distribute all assets. For example, assets that the deceased individual owned jointly with someone else who has a right of survivorship are not subject to the probate process. Creating a will does not mean your estate will not go through probate. However, when your estate does go through probate, a court will distribute your assets according to your will, not according to North Carolina’s intestacy laws. Moreover, your estate plan can utilize various trusts to avoid probate, ultimately saving time and money.

What is a Living or Revocable Trust?

Most people create a will which is a legal document that states who they like to receive their assets after they pass away. However, more people than ever are creating trust-based estate plans. A trust is a legal tool that allows you to transfer your assets or property into a trust. You will appoint trustees to manage the property owned by the trust for the benefit of your beneficiaries. The beneficiaries are the people who will receive money or property from the trust.

Trusts are not subject to the probate process. In other words, you can structure your trust so that your loved one will receive the assets owned by the trust immediately upon your death, without having to wait for the probate court to distribute your assets. Trusts are also helpful for protecting assets from a number of creditors and allowing you to protect assets for someone who may need help managing those assets, such as an adult child with special needs.

How do I Pay for Nursing Home Care?

Nursing homes can cost well over $8,000 per month in North Carolina. Many of our clients are understandably concerned about how they will pay for nursing home care should they need it. Our estate planning lawyers can help you protect your assets while allowing you to qualify for Medicaid, which covers long-term nursing home care. The sooner you begin planning for long-term care coverage, the better. There are many complicated rules involved when it comes to qualifying for Medicaid, and you will need to show that your income is low enough. You will not be able to simply give your assets away to a loved one, as the government will look back over a five-year time period and count any transfers of wealth against you. With enough planning, however, you can make sure you qualify for nursing home care while keeping your assets safe.

How do I Limit Inheritance Tax?

You have worked hard your whole life, and you want to make sure as much of your assets and property go to your loved ones as possible. North Carolina does not have an estate tax, but other states do and you may be subject to federal estate taxes. An estate planning lawyer can help you take advantage of federal exemption amounts, allowing your estate to pass to your loved ones will limited, or no, tax consequences.

If you or a loved one is in need of an estate plan, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC for a consultation with one of our estate law attorneys today.