An estate is the real property (land and attached buildings) and personal property an individual has an ownership interest. Basically, anything you have in your name. Estate Planning allows an individual to protect and provide for their spouse, children, and loved ones, avoid family conflicts, provide for special needs loved ones, and leave a lasting legacy.

At a minimum, we suggest every individual 18 years and older have the following documents:

1. Last Will and Testament and/or Trust
2. Durable Power of Attorney
3. Advance Health Care Directive
4. HIPAA Authorization

Last Will and Testament and/or Trust

A will is a written document signed in the manner prescribed by law that disposes of property upon death. North Carolina requires two witnesses to watch the testator/testatrix sign the Will in his/her presence.

A trust is a private agreement between a grantor and a trustee to manage assets in certain ways for the benefit of a beneficiary. A trust may be revocable or irrevocable, have more than one beneficiary, be written or oral, and include a trust protector provision. Special Needs or Supplemental Needs Trust is a trust that protects disabled beneficiary’s eligibility.

Durable Power of Attorney

A Durable Power of Attorney allows your “agent” to act on your behalf in financial transactions. Durable allows the power of attorney to stay in effect should you become mentally incapacitated. This document can be “immediate” or “springing.” Immediate allows your agent to act on your behalf whenever needed. Springing requires proof that a condition has been met (you are incapacitated).

Advance Health Care Directive (Health Care POA and/or Living Will)

An advance health care directives include Health Care Power of Attorney, a Living Will, or Organ Donor.

A Health Care Power of Attorney allow your agent to act on your behalf to make physical and mental medical decisions. This document can also be “immediate” or “springing” as described in the Durable Power of Attorney section.

A Living Will is a document that details one’s end of life decisions. These decisions
include whether or not you wish life-prolonging measures be used in the event you have an incurable/irreversible condition, you are unconscious with little medical certainty you will regain consciousness, and/or you suffer from advanced dementia or any other condition that results in irreversible loss of your cognitive ability. This document may also override your health care agent’s decisions concerning your care at this stage.

HIPAA Authorization

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) is a federal law that was created to protect individuals from health information being disclosed without their consent or knowledge. The HIPAA authorization form names authorized persons access to your private health information.

If you are in need of any of the above mentioned documents or need to update your estate plan, call Dobson Legal, PLLC at 910-239-7874 to schedule your consultation.