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Virtual Notarization Temporarily Authorized in North Carolina

Virtual Notarization Temporarily Authorized in North Carolina

By Ryan McNeill, Attorney at Law The current pandemic may have you thinking about estate planning. With social distancing requirements put in place, schools closed for the academic year and business temporarily closed, there is a lot to process. Add to that the COVID-19 statistics shown on the nightly news, and it is no wonder many people are worried about the future. To adapt and to provide continuous vital legal services during the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Carolina General Assembly has passed a law that will no longer require a notary to be physically present in the same location as the signing of documents when notarizing estate planning or other legal documents. The emergency video notarization provisions were part of Senate Bill 704, which became law on May 4, 2020, and which had other important provisions for signing estate planning documents. Emergency video notarization is authorized while a state of emergency order is in place and requires that there be real-time video and audio electronic interaction between the notary and the person signing the document. Itfurther requires that the notary either has personal knowledge of the person signing the document or that during the video conference the signer show to the camera a state or federal issued photo identification card like a driver’s license. Additional changes were made to witnessing certain estate planning documents. The old law required a living will or healthcare power of attorney documents to be signed in the presence of two witnesses and a notary. During the state of emergency both of those documents now only require notarization and the presence of two witnesses is...
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst During COVID-19

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst During COVID-19

By Will Miller Since mid-March of this year, we have all been living in the shadow of COVID-19. Although we all experience death during our lives, the pandemic has heightened awareness of human vulnerability and mortality, both for ourselves and our loved ones. We wonder what would happen if we became critically ill from the virus, how our illness would affect our family and friends, and what we can do to prepare for the possibility of grave illness or death. Illness and death are morbid topics in the best of times, perhaps more so in the midst of a pandemic. However, the value of taking proactive steps to prepare for the worst is rarely more apparent than now. A comprehensive estate plan provides preparation for illness and end of life through advanced directives for incapacity and end-of-life treatment, as well as for instructions for the division of assets among loved ones at death. An initial step toward such preparation is considering what decisions may need to be made regarding your medical care if you become incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes. If you were unable to breathe due to COVID-19, would you want to be intubated and connected to a ventilator? What if your treating physician determined that you were not going to recover from the virus – would you want to be kept alive as long as possible, or would you want life support to be withheld or withdrawn? Questions concerning end-of-life medical treatment are relevant for many illnesses and conditions, but current events make us more mindful of such scenarios. An estate planning attorney can guide...
What You Need to Know About the SECURE Act

What You Need to Know About the SECURE Act

By David Inabinett, Attorney at Law The SECURE Act (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019) was signed into law December 20, 2019, and most of its provisions became effective January 1, 2020. The Act is intended to make it easier for Americans to save for retirement and decrease the percentage of us who outlive our retirement funds. While the purpose of the Act is positive, some of these changes may result in unanticipated tax bills for beneficiaries who were previously able to defer or “stretch” the withdrawal of such accounts over an entire life expectancy. The key provisions of the SECURE Act include: The age limit to begin mandatory distributions from retirement plans has been increased from 70 and a half years of age to 72 in recognition of the fact that people are living longer. This does NOT impact anyone who turned 70 1/2 before January 1, 2020. If you are still working at 70 1/2, your retirement savings may remain untouched for an extra 18 months.People of any age may now contribute to a traditional IRA. The prior age cap of 70 1/2 has been removed, so if you are still working and want to build your retirement account and get the tax benefits of a traditional IRA, you may do so. Timing is such that those turning 70 1/2 in 2019 will not be able to claim the IRA deduction for 2019’s taxes but will be able to do so for 2020 and moving forward. In addition, you now have extra time to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, should...
Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

Ryan McNeil | November of 1983 marked the official designation of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Communities since then have made it their mission to not only increase awareness of the disease but raise funds toward the research for a cure, too. What is Alzheimer’s? According to the National Institute of Aging, Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia. It is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. However, with new medical treatments, clinical trials, and with the help of advancements in technology doctors provide Alzheimer’s patients with a somewhat better quality of life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports “The number of people living with the disease doubles every 5 years beyond age 65 and this number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million people by 2060.” Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Every person who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is the not the same. There are signs or indicators that manifest differently in people. However, there are symptoms that you should be on the look out for. According to the Alzheimer’s Association there are 10 symptoms of Alzheimer’s Memory loss that disrupts daily lifeChallenges in planning or solving problemsDifficulty completing familiar tasksConfusion with time or placeTrouble understanding visual images and spatial relationshipsNew problems with words in speaking or writingMisplacing things and losing the ability to retrace stepsDecreased or poor judgmentWithdrawal from work or social activitiesChanges in mood and personality Who Does Alzheimer’s Affect? Regular responsibilities like remembering to pay bills, turning off electrical appliances or just trying...
What is a MOST Form?

What is a MOST Form?

By David Inabinett, Attorney at Law We often talk about the importance of having Advance Directives as part of your estate plan. These documents help you maintain control over your care even if you are not in a position to make a decision for yourself. A MOST form (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment) is a formal medical order that goes beyond the standard healthcare directives and allows the patient to define exactly how extensive treatment should be. The MOST form must be completed with your doctor. He or she will review each statement and ensure you understand the implications of your choices. Section A of the document is a standard Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR) that indicates whether you want CPR performed should your heart stop. Sections B, C and D cover various medical interventions, from administration of antibiotics to whether you wish to be put on a ventilator. After you complete the form with your doctor, you will both sign it and it will become part of your medical records. You and the doctor must review the form every year and re-sign to indicate your decisions are still the same. If you change your mind, the old form will be marked VOID and a new form completed. Healthcare providers at the doctor’s office, hospital, or long-term care facility will follow the MOST instructions and call your doctor for follow up care. (Note: EMTs in North Carolina and many other states are required to make every effort to save your life; they are not able to honor MOST or DNR agreements. Depending on your situation, you may want...
What is Medicaid Planning?

What is Medicaid Planning?

When we talk about estate planning and preparing for retirement, we often include a discussion on long term care expenses and how to pay for those costs. Many clients believe they have saved sufficient funds for retirement and assume they will never need government assistance. But what happens if your expenses are significantly higher than planned (for example, you or your spouse require expensive long-term care), your investments do not provide as much income as expected, or you simply outlive your money? Even if you never need to apply for Medicaid, it is worth planning as if you might need that kind of assistance. What is Medicaid? Medicaid is a state and federal partnership providing medical assistance to those with low income, the elderly, pregnant women, children, and disabled individuals. The program is run by each individual state, so the rules may differ. In 2017 it was estimated that 64% of nursing home residents in North Carolina received Medicaid assistance to pay all or a portion of the cost of care. The Affordable Care Act changed the Medicaid application process and some of the income rules surrounding eligibility. Some states have approved Medicaid expansion, extending the program to additional residents who would not otherwise have any healthcare coverage. As of the date of this writing, the North Carolina General Assembly has not approved Medicaid expansion. Why Plan? Consider the following situation: A married couple with grown children owns their $350,000 home outright and has $250,000 in retirement savings and investments. One spouse falls ill and is placed in a long-term nursing facility with no expectation he will return home....