How Often Should I Update My Will or Estate Plan?

How Often Should I Update My Will or Estate Plan?

We are frequently asked how often one should update his or her last will and testament or an estate plan. The answer: it depends on your situation. When we work with estate planning clients to put a will in place, execute powers of attorney or create a trust, we attempt to include in these legal documents some flexibility so they will remain valid working documents for a reasonable period of time. There are, however, life events that will necessitate an update or change to a will or other estate planning documents. Here are a few times when you should update your will or estate plan: If you move to another state, the laws may be different. It’s a good idea to have an estate planning attorney in your new location update your documents to ensure they comply with the laws in that state. Likewise, if individual(s) you have named to act on your behalf under your prior estate planning documents have moved or have had life changing events that make it unrealistic to fulfill their roles, you may wish to update your documents or consider using a revocable trust to avoid probate when your named executors are expected to handle your estate from a distance. Many married couples have standard wills naming the other as beneficiary of all assets. If you divorce, you will probably want to update your will and other legal documents. Don’t forget to name a new beneficiary on all insurance policies, your 401(k), etc., if appropriate. Having children also requires an update to your will and other documents. You will need to name a legal...
Legal Options to Protect Your Assets

Legal Options to Protect Your Assets

By David E. Inabinett, Brinkley Walser, PLLC Whether you have a limited number of assets or are very wealthy, most people want to have a say about what will happen to those assets after their death. If you die without a last will and testament in North Carolina, the distribution of any assets remaining after payment of your debts will be decided by the courts. This may lead to those assets being given to someone you would not normally choose. Having a will in place outlines your wishes for the distribution of your property. Once filed with the court after your death, this document becomes your voice during the probate process. For those with limited assets and simple estates, a will may be sufficient. If, however, you wish to avoid the probate process or any number of other situations exist, a will alone may not be the best choice. If your assets have grown significantly, there is a family business to consider, there is a divorce situation, you have a special needs dependent, there are questions about Medicaid eligibility, or you own significant art, jewelry or collectibles, you may wish to review other asset protection options with an estate planning attorney. Here are some commonly asked questions: What is the exemption amount on an estate? The current (2014) estate tax exemption is $5.34 million per individual (double that if you are married). Estates under these thresholds are not subject to federal estate tax as long as a federal Form 706 is filed within nine months of the individual’s death. Do all estates have to go through Probate? Not necessarily....
Caring for a Loved One with Special Needs

Caring for a Loved One with Special Needs

The attorneys at Brinkley Walser wish to share this information with anyone who may be caring for a child or parent with special needs, or who may be facing separation and divorce where one spouse is suffering from a disabling condition. Based on U.S. Census figures from 2010, 18.7% of the country’s population exhibited some form of long-term disability. The disabling conditions consisted of sensory disabilities, physical limitations, mental and emotional conditions. The percentage of those disabled increased with age. The study showed 15.4% of those age 15 and older had a severe disability; for those ages 65+, that number was 36.6%. Statistics from a survey conducted by MetLife, Inc. showed that nearly 9% of parents reported of having a child (including adult children) with a “physical, developmental, cognitive, medical or emotional condition. ” According to this survey, the following information bears consideration: 49% are covered by some form of private insurance 41% are covered by Medicaid 8.5% of children with special needs have no form of health insurance coverage Parents spend an average of $326/month on non-covered medical expenses 60% of children with special needs require some type of medical intervention or administration of meds on a daily basis On average, parents of children with special needs spend 24 hours/week caring for their child, with 32% of such parents reporting they spend more than 40 hours/week providing such care 84% of parents with children having special needs have made no provisions for lifetime financial assistance for those children 88% of parents whose children have special needs have not established a special needs trust to maintain public benefits eligibility...
Estate Planning: Digital Media and Assets

Estate Planning: Digital Media and Assets

By E. Drew Nelson, Attorney From the preparation of a simple will and power of attorney to complex trust planning, most people understand the importance of at least some level of estate planning to ensure their wishes are observed upon their death. Each individuals needs may be different, however, one common thread that links most people in this modern society is the use and control of digital media and assets. There are over 500 million Facebook users now and most people have used the internet to access some form of account or transaction from online banking to amazon.com purchases. Our population is only becoming more tied to a digital presence as new generations begin to grow up not knowing life before the internet. In the past, people preserved memories in photo albums; now those may be online at a Flickr account or Facebook photo album. Daily transactions have also shifted into the digital realm. Online banking now is fairly commonplace and where once you had to go stand in line at your local branch, many transactions from depositing funds to securing a loan can be accomplished online. The importance of the rise of the digital world is that upon death it is very unclear what happens to many of these online accounts and digital assets you may possess. There still remains no uniform law regarding the status of digital accounts or assets. Some states have attempted to regulate these but the law is still in its infancy. While state lawmakers try and catch up to the ever evolving digital world it is important for you to protect yourself and...
Top 5 Reasons to Get Your Estate Plans in Place

Top 5 Reasons to Get Your Estate Plans in Place

By Ryan V. McNeill, Brinkley Walser, PLLC Well, another new year has rolled in, and many of you still have not created an initial estate plan or updated your existing plan. It can seem like a daunting task, and discussing end-of-life issues is not something many of us are comfortable doing. I would like to explain why it is so important to get your estate plans in place, and I hope you will add this task to your list of resolutions for the year. Top 5 Reasons for Estate Planning Reason #1: Protecting Your Children or Dependents The most important reason to sit down and talk about estate planning is to protect your minor children and dependents. It does not matter how much money you have in the bank, or whether you are still young and don’t have many assets. If you have children or others who depend on you, it is important to have a plan. What would happen to your children if you were killed in a car accident? What if you were severely disabled and unable to communicate your wishes? Even if you are single and have minimal assets, who would pay your funeral expenses and settle your legal affairs should you die or become disabled unexpectedly? Reason #2: Age Isn’t the Determining Factor We often hear people say they don’t have estate plans in place because they are young and still “have time.” Injury and illness can happen to anyone at any time. Age is not always the primary factor. It’s a good idea to begin the estate planning process in your twenties and continue...
Last Minute Will Changes

Last Minute Will Changes

By David E. Inabinett, Attorney There’s nothing like the prospect of death to make someone’s wishes about their legacy – and the handling of their estate – come into focus. Certainly, there can be will changes that, if executed properly, can save taxes, expenses and time in sorting things out or going to a more difficult estate administration process. However, if not handled carefully, such last minute will changes can open the door for legal challenges that can last for years, particularly if those death-bed changes make significant alterations to the person’s previous plan or appear out-of-character for them. It is best that one’s estate plan is carefully considered, executed through proper documents and beneficiary designation structure, and updated periodically rather than all at once upon a sudden illness or crisis. It is also best not to act in haste to write someone out of your will without significant thought and consideration being devoted to that change. Despite this common sense advice, most find it difficult to make a decision until faced with the reality of death or at least the real threat of it. While not as common, some act swiftly and emotionally to make all-too-quick alterations due to a misstep of a child or other beneficiary of their estate. Too often, this comes at a time when the person is experiencing some element of diminished capacity, either due to age or illness. Caution should be taken to ensure that the person does possess the capacity to make changes to their will or other legal documents, and that such changes are not due to the exercise of undue...