A general (also called financial or durable) power of attorney is a document that allows someone you choose (called an agent) to make financial and business decisions for you in the event you are unable to do so. Generally, this document goes into effect when it is signed, so it is important to choose an agent that you trust.
If you are ill, incapacitated or overseas, a power of attorney gives you the peace of mind that your agent can conduct your personal business for you. Most companies, such as banks, credit cards or insurance companies, will not talk to someone (even a family member!) without this document. In many instances, you will want to register your power of attorney with the Register of Deeds in your home county.
If you do not have a power of attorney, become incapacitated and can’t conduct your affairs, your family must get a court-appointed guardian to do it for you. This is time-consuming and will cost you unnecessary legal fees and court costs. It’s much easier, and less expensive, to have a valid power of attorney before you are in a crisis.
I have minor children. Why do I need a testamentary trust?
A will with a minor trust is a will that includes additional provisions governing the care of your assets and their distribution to your children. You are also able to name a guardian for your children.
Parents of minor children absolutely need a will with testamentary trust provisions. If your family does not get along, there could be a custody battle, and the guardian of the person chosen by the court may not have the same values and child-rearing philosophy that you have, while the guardian of the estate will not have the flexibility with finances a trustee would have. In addition, the guardian of the estate will incur legal fees and court costs by making an official accounting to the court every year of how the money is spent. Finally, your children will usually receive their share of the assets outright at the age of 18 (in some cases 21).
In a will with a testamentary trust, you nominate the guardian(s) and decide at what age your child will receive their share of the assets. Only in rare instances will the court override your decision, such as if your choice is a drug addict or otherwise unfit to care for a child. You also choose the age at which your children receive their share of the assets outright. Most parents choose an age between 25 and 35.
Note, too, that life insurance passes outside of your will, so if you have life insurance for the benefit of your children, make sure that your policies list the trust as a beneficiary and not your minor child outright!
Many believe that they don’t need an attorney to draw up a will or a trust and would rather attempt to save money by obtaining estate planning documents on line. While this can work in a few limited situations, it is risky. The reality is that Jessica devotes a surprising percentage of her practice to cleaning up mistakes made from those who attempt to do it without the advice of an attorney. Consequently, their loved ones spend extra time and money on legal fees that could have been avoided if they had documents properly drafted for their specific situations in the beginning. Or worse yet, their intentions are not able to be carried out because of a mistake that could have been avoided with a qualified attorney’s review. Jessica takes the time to analyze your situation, develop a plan and tailor your documents to reflect your unique needs.
What kind of trust do I need?
There are many different types of trusts, including Special Needs Trusts and Living Trusts. A few people may need these depending on specific circumstances. Jessica L. Bell, PLLC can help you determine if you need a certain type of trust.
Why do I need a health care power of attorney?
A health care power of attorney is a document that gives someone else (called an agent) the power to make health care decisions for you in the event two doctors declare you unable to make or communicate health care decisions for yourself.
A health care power of attorney takes the pressure off your family to figure out what you would want in the event you cannot make or communicate health care decisions on your own. This document can help prevent family disagreements in the hospital. Many families have members that do not get along and/or have varying views on emergency and end-of-life care. This document will help ensure that your wishes are followed and not overruled by a vocal family member.
A health care power of attorney only goes into effect when two doctors (either your attending physicians or two you designate) determine that you cannot make or communicate health care decisions on your own. North Carolina health care powers of attorney also now include living will provisions, which provide clear direction to hospitals, doctors and nurses regarding your end of life views.
I need help administering an estate. What should I do?
Jessica Bell provides unbundled legal services in the area of estate administration. If full-service estate administration is not what you need, she can help you start the process, navigate specific areas and answer questions you may have.
Can you help me with an uncontested guardianship?
While guardianships are often a last resort, there are situations where they cannot be avoided. If this happens to you and your loved one, Jessica can help you apply for guardianship.