People in North Carolina should strongly consider developing an estate plan, even if they do not have any children or close relatives. An estate plan can be very useful in helping people to manage their assets and prepare for the unexpected events that may occur in their life.
All adults should have an estate plan that includes a durable power of attorney for financial and legal decisions and an advance directive for medical care. With these documents, people can designate someone they trust to make important medical, legal and financial decisions on their behalf if they should become incapacitated. If these documents are not completed, there will be certain decisions that even the spouse of an incapacitated person will not have the legal authority to make. An absence of these documents also means that the courts will have to conduct a guardianship or conservatorship to have someone appointed to be in charge of such decisions, and it is not guaranteed that the court-appointed person will be someone who the incapacitated person would know or would approve of.
A trust may also be beneficial. Individuals can use a trust as a tool to manage their assets while they are still alive. Trusts may help eliminate the need for an estate to go through the probate process and can provide a discrete and safe way for assets to be given to heirs.
An attorney who practices estate planning law may assist clients with creating an effective and personalized estate plan. Assistance might be provided with creating certain types of wills, trusts and powers of attorney. The attorney may advise clients how certain estate planning tools and strategies can be used to protect assets and mitigate taxes.