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Estate Planning FAQ

A nontaxable estate is one which does not pay federal estate tax. Presently estates with a gross value less than $11,180,000.00 for federal estate purposes are nontaxable estates. Many people confuse probate with a taxable estate. Just because an estate is nontaxable does not mean the estate can avoid probate.When the time comes to close the administration of a probate estate, the executor must complete a final account form provided by the court clerk's office. The final account lists all receipts, all disbursements, and all distributions. The clerk's office will require receipts or cancelled checks for any disbursements and will require receipts from all beneficiaries who receive a distribution. Once the final account form and pertinent documentation are submitted to and approved by the clerk's office, the estate will be closed.IRA's with named beneficiaries are not subject to probate in North Carolina and are not controlled by a will. For this reason it is important to make sure your will and the beneficiary designations on your non-probate assets, such as an IRA with named beneficiaries or life insurance, are consistent and are taken into account. Potential significant income tax consequences may affect inherited IRAs and other retirement accounts. You should consult a qualified tax advisor prior to completing any paperwork regarding an inherited IRA or other retirement account.The best way to prepare for estate planning is to find a lawyer who devotes a substantial portion of his or her practice to estate planning. There are many subtle nuances that lawyers who only do estate planning occasionally may miss, which may result in significant cost to your estate or your beneficiaries. Prior to your first meeting prepare a list of the types of assets you own and bring that list to the meeting. At the first meeting the lawyer most likely will go through the list and identify nonprobate assets that are not controlled by your will. The lawyer will likely ask for the full names and addresses of all those you names as beneficiaries.Yes, accountants and lawyers are able to act as trustees.First and foremost, you need the original will naming you as executor. Without the original will, it is doubtful the clerk will appoint you as executor. As an executor of an estate you need to determine all assets the deceased owned when he or she died, as well as all those to whom the deceased owed money when he or she died.A FPOA is a financial power of attorney, which is more frequently referred to as a durable power of attorney ("DPOA").In North Carolina if the will does not say how much an executor's commission will be, the clerk's office is permitted to award up to 5% of the total of commissionable receipts and disbursements in an estate as an executor's commission. Not all receipts and disbursements are counted. Though permitted to award up to 5%, clerks rarely award that amount. The typical range is 2 to 2.5%.For 2018, the amount is $11,180,000.00A trust will is an estate plan in which most or all of a deceased person's assets are in a trust, which is administered by a trustee. Typically trusts are not subject to probate and assets that were transferred to the trust prior to the deceased's death do not go through probate.The most important thing a beneficiary can do is to make sure the trustee has accurate contact information for the beneficiary. Occasionally a trustee may ask the beneficiary to sign documents relating to the trust or, more likely, a distribution from the trust. A beneficiary should have any documents he or she is asked to sign reviewed by the beneficiary's lawyer prior to signing.When someone dies without a will, state intestacy law will determine who is a beneficiary of the estate.Whether you need a trust depends on your estate planning goals. If you want all of your estate to be distributed to your beneficiaries without any restrictions or safeguards whatsoever, you may not need a trust. If you have a beneficiary with special needs, a substance abuse issue, a domestic issue, or simply want to place safeguards around a beneficiary's inheritance, a trust should be used. There are a number of other circumstances in which a trust is appropriate. The be way to determine if a trust is right for you is to meet with a qualified estate planning lawyer.Estate planning is the process of making a plan in advance and naming whom you want to receive the things you own after you die.In probate all of the deceased's assets that are subject to probate are collected, all of the deceased's valid bills are paid, and the remainder is distributed to the deceased's beneficiaries.A power of attorney is a document which authorizes someone else to act on your behalf. Like a will, a power of attorney can be tailored to your individual needs and circumstances.You can, but you would be ill advised to do so. You should consult a qualified estate planning lawyer.Everyone eighteen years of age or older should have basic estate planning documents in place. Basic estate planning documents are: (1) a will; (2) a durable power of attorney; (3) a healthcare power of attorney (sometimes called a healthcare proxy); (4) a living will (sometimes called a desire for natural death); and (5) a stand alone HIPAA release. Depending on the circumstances, a trust may be appropriate as well.In North Carolina most estates are administered completely within one year, in some cases sooner. Occasionally an estate will take longer than a year to administer based on issues unique to that estate.Executor's fees, known as a commission, are fees paid to the executor for administering an estate. The commission is normally paid at the conclusion of an estate administration and must be approved by the clerk. In cases of lengthy or complicated estate administrations, the clerk may authorize an interim payment of commissions.Handwritten changes should never be made to a will. The handwritten changes may not be effective and could make the entire will unenforceable.

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