Have you made your wishes known?
Everyone should have a will. It is a privilege, a way of exercising your freedom. It also can be a tool for helping your family and supporting your values. Anything you own while living is still owned by you after death. A will provides the means to transfer ownership post-mortem.
If you own assets in your name alone or jointly as “tenants in common”, they may pass from you to the people you love, as long as you leave a Will. Without a Will, your assets pass according to the State’s rules, also known as intestacy. The State’s rules may not pass your assets to the people or charities you intended to receive them.
You may use a Will to ensure…
- Your assets will pass through your Will to your loved ones or charities you intended.
- Reduce your estate tax liability by using a trust within your Will which can protect that person from creditors.
- Provides your family the tools to help protect your children, those who are not good money managers, or those who have other problems, such as addiction or mental illness.
A Will must go through a probate process, using the court system to divide your property. Also, keep in mind that a Will is not the same as having a complete “estate plan.” There are generally several other documents recommended as part of a comprehensive estate plan, such as a Health Care Power of Attorney, Durable Power of Attorney, and a Living Will.
Health Care Power of Attorney
A “health care” power of attorney authorizes another person to permit or decline medical care on your behalf. The health care power of attorney comes into effect when the physician determines that you lack sufficient understanding to communicate decisions relating to your health care. At such a time, the attorney-in-fact (health care agent) would be empowered to make health care decisions for you.
Durable Power of Attorney
A general durable power of attorney both authorizes you to act in a wide range of legal and business matters and remains in effect if you are incapacitated. The POA can take effect immediately or can become effective only if you are incapacitated. When considering a power of attorney, remember that the person you designate as the attorney-in-fact does not have to be a lawyer.
Under North Carolina law, you may execute a document known as a “living will.” Such a document represents your desire that life not be prolonged by extraordinary means; in other words, it allows for natural death.