As I write this, I’m sitting on the beach at Emerald Isle watching my children play in the sand. I love going on vacation, it gives me time to think about things like whether the sunburned guy sleeping under the umbrella next to me has a will. What? You say you don’t have those kinds of thoughts? Well, you’re in good company. According to a survey by a leading internet search engine, 64% of Americans do not have a will, power of attorney or other basic estate planning documents. Chances are, most of you reading this don’t either.
There are a lot of common misconceptions which keep people from getting their affairs in order. For instance, many married couples believe that if their spouse dies, they automatically get everything they owned. Unfortunately, North Carolina law doesn’t even make it legal to sign documents for the other spouse while alive, much less automatically inherit. This can cause big problems for couples with small children or even couples with adult children by prior marriages who wind up sharing those assets.
Young people often believe there’s no need for them to do estate planning because they don’t have much of an estate to plan. However, I often tell my clients that the most important “possession” they can have is their children. Without proper planning, you will have no say over who raises your children, where, or how.
Unfortunately, I also often have to work with the estates of people who decide to write something down on their own. As District Court Judge Jim Hill is fond of telling me, “a lawyer can make a good living from folks like that”. When you aren’t familiar with the requirements of a valid will, it’s easy to forget something, sign something wrong, or fail to take advantage of important tax provisions that can cost your heirs in unnecessary estate taxes.
The most common misconception I hear is the time, hassle and expense of estate planning. In two sessions, usually lasting less than 2 hours, we can discuss wills, powers of attorney, living wills and your disability and life insurance as well as go over your retirement and even touch on issues like Medicaid and financial planning. Often this can be done for less than $1,000.00.
If you hear yourself in any of this, call our office at (919) 401-5913 and either myself or one of our other experienced wills, trusts and estates attorneys would be glad to meet with you. That way, next time you’re on vacation you don’t have to worry about depressing things like me and you can spend more time worrying about the guy next to you.