Frequently asked questions
Wills, Trusts, and Estates
Do I Need A Will?
Everyone over the age of 18 should consider the importance of having a will. A Will is a legal document that outlines your wishes after your death. Every state has different laws that govern the requirements for a Will to be found valid. Contrary to what many believe, having a Will can be very important despite your level of wealth, especially if you have minor children.
If you don’t have a Will, anything and everything you own, regardless of value, will be distributed according to the “do nothing” State’s plan. The State’s plan will dictate how your property is to be distributed as well as many other important decisions for you.
Additionally, without a Will, you won’t have a say in naming guardians for minor children or naming who will be responsible for managing your affairs and what powers they have when you die. A Will generally addresses other important things such as how your final bills will be paid and how the costs of settling your estate and estate taxes will be paid. Keep in mind, without a Will, all these decisions are dictated by law and by the court. Schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session to get educated to decide for yourself what type of estate plan best fits your needs.
I Have A Will. Is That Enough?
For adults, our firm has seen that often having a Will is not enough to keep your family out of court and conflict. We refer to the “foundation” of every plan as a Will, Healthcare Directive, Power of Attorney, Living Will, HIPAA Authorization Documents, and a comprehensive stand-alone plan to Protect Your Children for clients with minor children.
We use this saying to help our clients understand how a Will functions: “Where there is a Will, there is a Probate.” Although having a Will may accomplish a client’s goals, it’s important to understand that having a Will alone does not avoid the need for Probate. Additionally, a Will only focuses on what happens after you die. If you are ever to become incapacitated—due to an unexpected incident, illness, or age— a Will does not appoint someone you trust to manage your affiars or care. To decide whether having a Will adequately protects the things you have and the people you love, Schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session to get educated, to make empowered decisions.
What Is Probate?
Put simply, Probate is a legal process that occurs after someone dies to handle their Estate. During Probate, the court will determine if the Last Will and Testament left behind is valid and an Executor or Personal Representative is appointed to oversee the process and settle the estate. All the assets of the deceased must be located and a value of the assets must be determined. All creditors are notified, final bills and taxes are paid, and anything remaining is distributed to beneficiaries. The same process is used for someone who dies without a Will, however the State law will make some important decisions for you, rather than a Will. There are a couple of important things you should know about probate:
- It’s a public process: A lot of information you might consider to be private will be made public— information about you, your family and your assets will all be in the public record.
- Probate is Lengthy: Generally, the probate process is greater than 6 months, and in some cases can be longer than a year. This may vary depending on the complexity of the estate and the local jurisdiction.
- Probate is Costly: Some costs associated with probate are court filing fees, fees paid to the Executor, attorney’s fees, accounting fees, appraisal fees, business valuation fees, or other miscellaneous fees such as creditors notice publication fees. Nationally, the average probate is said to be between 3-7% of the total assets of the estate. The costs may vary depending on the complexity of the estate and the local jurisdiction. Additionally, Executors or Personal representatives could be required to pay for and post a bond, if the requirement is not properly waived within your planning documents.
- Probate is Totally Avoidable: By working with an estate planning attorney, you can learn ways to develop an estate plan that will avoid the probate process. As we like to say, “Probate is a lawsuit you file against yourself after you die with your own money, for the benefit of your creditors.” If probate is something you’d like to avoid, contact us or schedule an Introduction Call to discuss how.
Schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session to learn whether your estate will be subject to probate, what the process might cost, how long your family might have to wait to access necessary funds, and how you might avoid the process completely.
Can I DIY My Estate Plan?
Unfortunately, most plans don’t work because much of what is sold as “estate planning” is little more than word processing. Even if you work with a traditional estate planning lawyer, you are asked a few questions and then the drafter decides which “plan” is right for you. They’ll quickly churn out some documents for you by doing little more than a “search and replace” of your family’s name and then hitting the “print” button. This is not estate planning– it’s document drafting.
Almost anyone can prepare their own “legal documents” these days on the internet. But we have seen time and time again, families of those that DIY their plan pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to clean up the mess that was caused by using online “legal documents” without the guidance of an attorney. DIY documents are typically designed to cover the most basic needs and may not be tailored to state-specific requirements.
Of course, documents are important, but our process is not document centered— it’s centered around people. Documents memorialize important decisions. We focus on serving as your trusted advisor, guiding you through the important discussions and considerations to make those decisions. Schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session so we can start guiding you through those important decisions.
How Much Do You Charge For Estate Planning Services?
As you can imagine, we get the question “how much does an estate plan cost” quite frequently. And, it’s a good question that we want to answer for you as clearly as we can, given that we don’t use a “one-size-fits-all” planning approach with our clients.
For what it’s worth, we believe you should think very hard about whether you want to work with a lawyer who can tell you exactly what your plan would cost via email or over the phone, without knowing anything about you, your loved ones, and your goals.
In fact, that’s why most estate plans fail. People “shop around” based on price (because they don’t know any other way to shop for an estate plan), and end up with a traditional plan, which is a set of documents that do not actually work when they are needed.
If a plan is not tailored to your needs and values and you get the exact same documents all the other clients get, how can the plan accomplish your specific goals? How can the plan instil your specific values or accurately preserve your legacy for the people you love?
We’ve priced our estate planning at the intersection of affordability and effectiveness. That’s why we start all of our plans with a Life & Legacy Planning Session.
The session is designed to get you more financially organized than you have ever been before, protecting your hard-earned assets from being lost to the State Department of Unclaimed Property. Even if you never do any planning with us, the Life & Legacy Planning Session alone is a hugely valuable process, because you will create a full inventory of your assets before we meet, which ensures your loved ones know what you have and where to find it.
When we meet for your planning session, we will review everything you own, and discuss everyone you love, and you will understand exactly what would happen in the event of your death or incapacity.
If you do not have a plan, we will cover the “do nothing plan” the State has for you. If you do have a plan, we’ll review your current plan with a “check up” and walk through how your plan would work for you. If you are not happy with your current plan or your State’s plan, you will tell us what you would want to change, and we will look at the most effective, efficient and affordable way to achieve your goals.
Here’s the most important part for you to know about this: you will be making informed, educated, and empowered decisions for the people you love, not just “shopping around” based on price.
And the best part– you will actually choose your own flat fee based on your budget and the planning options that are most important to you. There truly is no one-size-fits-all choice with our process.
We have created a process to educate you so you can make empowered, informed choices about what you want for the people you love – not simply choosing the “cheapest” option because you don’t have any other basis for making your decisions.
Keep in mind, you may think you “know you want something simple,” “you don’t have that much,” or you “know you need” a particular type of plan. Without question, we have seen almost every client have a very eye opening experience, making much more comprehensive decisions for themself than they intended, after getting educated.
Now, you understand how we work. So you understand that it’s not possible to give you a “standard price” because your personalized plan isn’t “standard”– it’s tailored to you. But we can provide a provide you a fee range of what our plans cost, so you’ll have a better idea of the fee you might choose:
- A Life & Legacy Planning Session process is $750. An Estate Plan Review and Checkup is $750. Those fees are applicable if you come in fully uneducated, but can be waived if you commit to doing a little pre-meeting homework ahead of time.
- Our three levels of comprehensive plans (or an update of your existing plan) range between $1,200 and $7,200, depending on the choices you make during the Life and Legacy Planning Session.
Whether you work with us or another estate planning attorney, we implore you not to “shop around” based on price, but rather which attorney will help you make informed, empowered, educated decisions for the people you love. Of all the ways you choose to spend your money, make sure you know how your investment in a plan will impact your family. Schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session so we can guide you through our process and you can choose the fee that accomplishes your individual planning goals.
What Is a HIPAA Authorization?
The HIPAA Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act prohibits health care providers and insurance providers from sharing your health information. This rule prohibits medical information from being shared with your spouse, family members, or other important people in your life, even during an emergency. Our plans include other documents to address your healthcare decisions such as a Living Will or Advanced Healthcare Directive, but we also prepare stand-alone HIPAA authorizations to ensure your loved ones have access to important health information when it’s needed. Schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session to learn more about how a HIIPA Authorization fits into your comprehensive estate plan.
Do I Need a Living Will?
May people think that verbally telling their spouse, partner, or children what they would want to happen if they were ever in a vegitative state or coma is enough. That’s plain wrong.
Many can recall the famous Terri Schiavo Case, in which the lack of a Living
Will lead to a long drawn-out court battle between Terri Shiavo’s husband and parents. Think about it– how could a court or medical professionals make decisions based on something you said once or twice in passing? A Living Will spares your family the anguish of making these extremely difficult decisions. It also helps medical professionals and, if ever necessary, courts, to know your wishes, without relying on something you said to somebody once. You can spare your loved ones by preparing a Living Will. Schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session to learn more about how a Living Will fits into your comprehensive estate plan.
Do I Need A Stand Alone Plan To Protect My Children?
You are a great parent, working hard every day to ensure your children are cared for and safe. But what would happen if the unexpected happened to you?
Are you part of the 69% of parents who have neglected to name legal guardians for your children? Maybe you have named guardians. Are you sure you have avoided the most common mistakes almost every parent makes when naming guardians?
We walk you through all the unique planning decisions that should be made when you’re planning for minors to make sure you avoid the mistakes that others have made. So frequently, traditional estate planning lawyers ask parents to name one or two people in their Will as guardians for minor children. But remember, a Will is only effective if you die. What happens if you become incapacitated? Our stand alone plan prepares for that.
What happens to your children if those you’ve named live far away? What happens if you children are with a babysitter or your Will cannot be located quickly? Our stand alone plan prepares for that. We name short term guardians and provide emergency procedures to make sure your children are kept out of state custody, even just for a day.
In large part, most estate plans are woefully inadequate to address all the complexities of preparing how your minor children should be cared for, if you can’t be around to care for them. We believe much more is necessary, and we’ll walk you through putting together a stand-alone plan to Protect your Children. Schedule a Protecting Your Children Planning Session to develop a stand-alone plan, or a Life & Legacy Planning Session to see how a stand-alone plan to protect your children fits into your comprehensive estate plan.
Small Business Planning
What Type Of Business Entity Should I Have?
Choosing the proper business entity for your business is important to the success of growing an idea into a thriving business. There are many factors that should be considered when deciding the type of business entity that’s right for you and your business. Some factors include desired tax treatment, management structure, plans to add a partner or other owners, and the extent you want to protect yourself and your personal assets from liability.
Because we don’t take a “one-size-fits-all” approach, we first work to get to know you, your values, your business, and your risk tolerance. Every business owner and business is different and unique. That’s why we start our process with one of our Business Audit Planning Sessions. We will get a clear understanding of where you are now, and where you want to go, discussing strategy to get you there. Then you can make an informed decision about the business entity that best fits your needs. Schedule a Business Audit Planning Session to get started.
Should I Operate My Business As A Sole Proprietor?
Whether you are an entrepreneur, solopreneurs, mico or small business, you’re never too small to make sure your business and personal assets are protected by having a strong legal foundation in place.
Think for a second: Do you want your personal assets including your home, personal bank accounts, and retirement accounts at risk if something goes wrong with your business? Those personal assets are all put at risk if you are operating as a sole proprietor.
With very few exceptions (if any), establishing a business entity is the best course to protect yourself and your family. If you are operating as a sole proprietor, Schedule one of our Business Audit Planning Sessions to get started evaluating how you can reduce risk for your business and protect your personal assets by establishing a strong legal foundation.
Do I Need A Contract When Working With Customers?
In the modern economy, almost anyone can be a “business owner” with the support of accessible technology. Heck, by using social media, everyday people are reaching more consumers than most marketing companies could have dreamed of reaching just years ago. At our firm, we love working with entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, side-hustlers, and micro or small businesses taking the leap of faith to launch an idea into a business. But one of the worst things you can do as a business owner is fail to protect yourself and your business. Business owners that truly want to create a successful thriving business have learned the value in establishing a strong legal foundation. Unfortunately, most have learned the hard way after a costly mistake.
We ask clients to reframe the way they view contracts. Many business owners think customers will be “turned off” by a stuffy long legal agreement. That just isn’t the case.
A contract is the foundation of a strong working business relationship. It sets the “ground rules” so everyone can play fair. It lays out the expectations and accounts for what happens if things don’t go as expected. In fact, we’ve seen far more business disputes occur because there is no contract or one that is insufficient, rather than disputes over the fine print.
One of the most basic investments you can make to protect your time, money, and business reputation is to develop a contract that is specific to your business and the way you work. Not only will a strong contract protect you, it will give you the confidence you need to grow your business. Schedule a Contract Audit Planning Session to get clear on what potential gaps or exposure to risk you might have with your current contract or operating with no contract at all.
Can I DIY My Contract?
We believe having a contract is better than not having one at all when you are working with clients, vendors, employees, and independent contractors. However, most “legal document” services or “document libraries” online aren’t sufficient for most businesses to develop the contracts they actually need. Frankly, it’s not that the language is not “legally correct,” it’s that the language is inadequate and not tailored to the way you actually work.
We get it. As a small business owner, you have to make difficult decisions about where to invest. After all, we are a small business as well. That’s why our focus is on education. We’d rather work with you one-on-one as a trusted advisor to walk you through what’s important, and what’s not when developing your contract. If after getting educated, you decide you can fix-up or develop your contract yourself, that’s absolutely fine with us. If you decide you need more support, we can do that too.
Our Contract Audit Planning Session is designed to help you help yourself. When making decisions about how to allocate your resources in building your business, we’d rather “teach you to fish” so you can solidify your legal foundation by using contracts in all aspects of your business. Schedule a Contract Audit Planning Session to get started.
What Documents Should My Business Have In Place?
The more you learn about our firm, the more you’ll learn that we don’t use a “one-size-fits-all-approach” in our planning. Every business is different and planning for your business should be tailored to meet your unique needs.
We are not “document centered” in our approach because we view documents as the by-product of important decisions you are making for your business. As your trusted business advisor, we first get to know you, your business, your goals, and your risk tolerance so we can help you filter what you need, and what you don’t. With our process, you’ll make those decisions for yourself after becoming educated to select what’s best for you. Then you can strategically decide your phased approach to implement those decisions. That’s why our business planning starts with one of our Business Audit Planning Sessions. If we see gaps in your business after a thorough evaluation, we may recommend one or more of our Basic Business Protection Documents, if that’s what’s actually best for you and your business. Schedule a Business Audit Planning Session to get started.
Have another question?
704.594.1146 | 1026 Jay Street, Suite B-17 Charlotte, NC 28208
Meetings By Appointment Only
Licensed: North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, New Jersey & New Mexico