Including Third Parties in Your Holiday Family Estate Planning Meeting

Why involve your financial advisor, attorney, and accountant?

Some people might have misgivings about having a third party advisor present at an otherwise private family gathering, and it’s certainly not a mandatory step. However, you might want to consider inviting your financial advisor, estate planning attorney, or accountant to the meeting for the following reasons:


  • The presence of your financial and legal team can add a sense of authority to the conversation, reinforcing that your choices have not been arrived at lightly.

 

  • With your permission, your team can review the structure of your estate plan with your family, highlight its benefits, and make the meeting easier for you to conduct.



  • In some cases, there might be questions from your family. Your team can, with your permission, answer questions, especially those of a technical nature.


Tailor the role of your financial advisor, attorney, and accountant in your family meeting to your specific needs. Whoever you include can give a brief presentation of your estate plan as part of the proceedings, or simply be on hand to clarify points. When appropriate, someone from your team can even act as a facilitator or moderator for the meeting itself.


In whatever method you choose to address this sensitive subject with your family, remember that our office is here to help. Whether you need a full review of your estate plan or counsel on how to include your loved ones in a family vision for your estate. Contact our office today for your estate planning needs.

 

Part 4 of 4 - Holidays Estate Planning

What Should You Discuss at Your Family Holiday Estate Planning Meeting?

Once you’ve committed to discussing your estate planning with your family, what should you share specifically? Should you detail the entire plan with them, or just an outline of it? Should you go into detail about who gets what?


The specifics of what should and should not be discussed about your estate will depend on your family, your circumstances, and your overall level of comfort with how much knowledge they possess. You don’t necessarily have to violate your privacy, and there’s typically no need to reveal specific dollar amounts at this meeting. One big caveat – if there’s anything in your plan that might stir controversy, concealing it now serves to invite conflict later. Thus, a good basic rule of thumb is to share as much as is necessary to get everyone on the same page.


Tips for a successful estate planning family meeting

When you hold your family meeting, a bit of awkwardness is to be expected at first—after all, no one in your family (presumably) is likely eager to discuss what will happen when you die. Likewise, you need to be prepared to talk through some of the choices you’ve made that are likely to generate some pushback. However, the end of the meeting is often more comfortable than the beginning. The following guidance can help you get there.


  • Plan the meeting after the holiday, if possible. If you’re gathering the family at a holiday like Christmas, try to arrange the actual meeting to take place after the holiday itself, so a potentially uncomfortable conversation doesn’t spoil any planned festivities.

 

  • Invite your financial advisor, estate planning attorney, and accountant to be in attendance.


  • Schedule the meeting in a quiet place that encourages candid conversation. A public place is probably not appropriate for this discussion. Your financial advisor or estate planning attorney might have access to space if you need it and prefer a “neutral” site over your living room.


  • Arrange for child care. This meeting should be an adults-only gathering so everyone can participate without distractions from babies and children.

 

  • Set an agenda. Encourage open conversation, especially on any controversial points, but have a clear list of points to be covered, so you don’t forget anything in the midst of emotional moments.


  • Set a start and stop time. This step will help the meeting stay on track without meandering away from the main points. If something significant comes up, you can always continue the discussion later.

 

  • Strike an inclusive tone. While you should not suggest that your decisions are open to challenge or discussion (it is your estate plan after all), try to convey that you are inviting the family to share your vision and goals. If you can get them on board with you at the outset, the risk of disputes will be significantly reduced later.

 

Part 3 of 4 - Holidays Estate Planning

Preparing for Meeting With Your Family About Your Estate Plan

Should you tell your children about their inheritance?

The question of whether to tell the children about their inheritance is the subject of ongoing debate. Many people express concern that this information might reduce a child’s work ethic or make them feel otherwise entitled, killing their motivation to seek a career and a “normal” life. Depending on the child’s temperament, this might be a legitimate point. On the other hand, inexperience and lack of understanding about wealth can result in a quickly-lost inheritance, only because your heir didn’t know what to do.


The best path for most of us is a “happy medium,” sharing your plan in general terms with your heirs, without necessarily telling your heirs the dollar values. You might even entrust some heirs with some responsibility for investment and entrepreneurial opportunities now before they inherit anything. This way, they begin to share your guiding values, and they are therefore better prepared to handle, manage and even grow their inheritance when they ultimately receive it.


Communication now prevents conflict later

You have put careful thought into which assets go to which beneficiaries and why. But, when the details of a plan are sprung on people, especially during a time of grief, differing opinions can create conflict. If your family unexpectedly discovers upon your death that there is a significant amount of money to be distributed, and you haven’t shared your rationale behind the decisions you’ve made, then you’ve set the stage for conflict and infighting, and possibly even a costly and lengthy lawsuit.


To overcome these challenges, frame your estate planning around your guiding principles, communicate your intentions thoroughly in the trust, and share your vision clearly with your trustees and beneficiaries while you’re still around to explain things. By attaching your values to your estate planning and involving your family in the process, your estate plan now becomes a family plan, minimizing the risk of conflict.

 

Part 2 of 4 - Holiday Estate Planning

Talking to Your Family About Your Estate Plan During the Holidays

With the holiday season in full swing, there is probably no better time to have a family meeting with your children and other loved ones about your estate plan. While discussing this topic is not necessarily a comfortable one for you and your loved ones, it is a discussion that can prevent future conflict among family members.

 

Often, people do not make their intentions about their estate plans clear to their families, which could result in costly, time-consuming conflict. Also, families often do not understand or share the wealth management visions of those who precede them, sometimes resulting in asset dissipation upon inheritance.

 

Both of these issues can be prevented through honest communication with your family now. Having most, if not all, immediate family members under one roof during the holidays creates the perfect opportunity to have a conversation with your loved ones about your estate plan.

 

However, you should let your loved ones know in advance of your intent to have this conversation to avoid surprising them with a conversation that can be characterized as morbid during a time that is supposed to be festive and cheerful.

Why it’s important to talk to your family

Passing along our wealth is a wonderful privilege; however, working with your heirs early can help pass along the values of work ethic and generosity that enabled you to acquire and grow that wealth. Too many fortunes built by one generation are lost by the next, not due to bad luck or the Internal Revenue Service, but due to a lack of understanding of wealth management and preservation.

Also, when your family doesn’t appreciate the rationale behind your estate planning choices—like the use of lifetime trusts—this lack of understanding can lead to conflict and resentment among family members. In a worst case scenario, your heirs end up suing one another. No one relishes the idea of family being torn apart over antiques, heirlooms, or who gets the beach house. Nevertheless, it happens far more often than anyone cares to admit.

 

Part 1 of 4 - Holiday Estate Planning

Seven Reasons Why Startups Need a Lawyer

The first 12 to 18 months of a startup carry a number of legal issues. Here’s an overview of reasons why hiring an attorney to help in the process is important:

  1. Forming the Startup — From a legal perspective, the first step for an entrepreneur or business to take is forming a company as a legal entity. In today’s world, the most common entity choices are the LLC and the corporation. Determining the right entity choice for your startup is dependent on a number of factors, including tax considerations, whether the startup will need to raise money from angel investors or a venture capital firm, and whether the company wants to incentivize key employees with equity compensation, etc. Another decision to be made in the formation process is where to form your company. For most companies, the right answer is North Carolina (or the state where you conduct your business). However, for some companies, particularly those that anticipate needing to raise money from venture capital firms down the road, Delaware is usually the right choice. While the formation with the state is a fairly simple process, it’s important to make sure that you do it properly, and that your name is available and protectable. Lastly, operating a business without forming a legal entity with the state means that the owners are personally liable for anything that goes wrong with the company. Limited liability is one of the many perks of owning a business, it is important to make sure that it has been established before your company starts operating.
     
  2. Operating and Buy-Sell Agreements — While formation establishes a legal entity with the state in which the business is formed, it’s also important to have agreements among the founders. These agreements are important because they establish the ownership interest of each founder, who has what responsibilities, who has the power to make which decisions, and the process for handling a founder’s exit from the company. For an LLC, this primarily comes in the form of operating agreements and buy-sell agreements. For a corporation, founders agreements come in the form of the company bylaws, restricted stock purchase agreements, shareholder agreements, etc. While some entrepreneurs try to put off these decisions, it’s much easier to take care of these types of documents at the beginning when the parties are in the honeymoon phase rather than when meaningful money is at stake or emotions are running hot because of a disagreement.
     
  3. Leasing Office Space — If you’re a typical startup that isn’t meeting with clients at the office, co-working spaces can be a great option because they are short-term leases that may not require consulting with a lawyer. But if you own the type of business that requires dedicated space, like a restaurant or doctor’s office, you will need to engage commercial leases. This is one of the contracts that will most likely create a dispute for a startup because commercial leases tend to be landlord-friendly. An attorney can help a startup evaluate whether lease terms are fair for the market in which you operate and ensure that your company is better protected than would be the case if you negotiated the lease.
     
  4. The Company Brand and Websites — As your company grows you will want to make sure that your name and brand are protected. Trademark protection makes sure that competitors cannot legally use your name or logo or even similar names or logos that are likely to cause confusion for consumers. For basic business websites there are two key legal “documents” or pages. The first is the privacy policy, which is part of the website where you tell people using your website what data you will collect and how you will use that data. The second is the terms of use/service. If there’s a contractual element because a visitor is buying a product or service on your website, this will be even more important, but even if you’re not asking someone to sign an electronic contract, you still need to lay out the terms of their use of the website. Even if a website is free to use, like parts of The New York Times or The Charlotte Observer, there are still terms of use and you have to make sure you have properly informed your website users of those terms. 
     
  5. Independent Contractors and Employees — Whether you hire employees or bring on independent contractors, it’s important to have a contract that spells out the details of the relationship with your business. Detailing the job duties, compensation and benefits, and reasons for termination are just some of the important contract terms that should be defined in these contracts. One key misconception among business owners is that they get to choose whether to hire employees or independent contractors, but like many rules defined by the IRS, it’s not that simple. The IRS has a complex test to determine whether a worker qualifies as an independent contractor. This matters because improper classification and can lead to difficulties from a tax, financial, and legal perspective.
     
  6. Contracts — The key contracts for any business depend heavily on the industry, but all businesses have important relationships that should be properly documented by a contract. If you are a website developer, your key agreements are going to be your development contracts with your clients – such an agreement will lay out the scope of work, specify that the developer is an independent contractor, the amount of compensation, and the frequency of that compensation. For a restaurant, key contracts could include supplier or catering agreements. For SaS companies, the terms of service and/or licensing agreements are often the most important. Depending on the nature of the business, confidentiality agreements (i.e., NDAs), non-compete agreements, and non-solicitation agreements may be standard contracts needed by the company.
     
  7. Capital — For some startups, it’s necessary to raise capital to scale the business. On a basic level, you can raise capital in one of two ways: debt or equity. Regardless, it’s important that the capital raise is properly documented. Debt fund raising is usually in the form of a loan from a bank or from family and friends. Alternatively, you can raise money in the form of equity, which is selling ownership in your company in return for additional capital that will be used to grow the company. If you decide to go the equity route there are a number of really important restrictions on how you raise money and the sorts of disclosures you give to different types of investors. The process can be difficult to navigate and it’s important to make sure that you raise money properly because there are severe consequences for not following the securities laws that govern such transactions.

The Basics of Trusts

The concept of a trust fund can seem intimidating and confusing. But what exactly is a trust? Simply, it’s a legal agreement between three parties:    

  • The trustmaker: This is the individual who creates the trust agreement. This individual is commonly referred to as a grantor, trustor, or settlor.

  • The trustee: This person or entity is responsible for managing the property that the trustmaker transfers into and titles in the name of the trust.

  • The beneficiary or beneficiaries: These people or entities receive the benefits of the property titled in the name of the trust.

The trustmaker transfers ownership of certain assets to the trust and the trustee. The trustee then manages those assets for the benefit of the beneficiary or beneficiaries.

Living Trust or Testamentary Trust?

A living trust is a trust that is created and becomes effective during the trustmaker’s lifetime. This is also referred to as an “inter vivos” trust.

This is an important distinction because some trusts do not take effect until after trustmaker has died. Trusts that only become effective after the trustmaker’s death are referred to as “testamentary” trusts. A testamentary trust is typically formed by the executor of the decedent’s estate when the decedent’s last will and testament names the trust as a beneficiary. The will directs that the decedent’s property should be moved into that trust upon his death.

Revocable Living Trusts

In most situations, the trustmaker, the trustee, and the beneficiary of a revocable trust are the same person.

The trust agreement may cite other beneficiaries as well, those who will inherit from the trust after the trustmaker’s death. The two most common reasons for creating a revocable living trust are (1) to plan for mental disability and (2) to avoid probate of the assets the trustmaker funds into his trust before his death.

The trustmaker can name someone else, referred to as a “successor trustee,” to take over should the trustmaker become mentally incapacitated. This avoids having a court name a conservator or guardian to take over the trustmaker’s financial affairs when the trustmaker is unable to do so.

Irrevocable Living Trusts

If the trustmaker forms an irrevocable trust, in most cases he cannot alos act as the trustee. The most common use of an irrevocable trust is to move assets out of the trustmaker’s name to the next generation for their use and enjoyment. This, in turn, reduces the value for the trustmaker’s estate for estate tax purposes.

Once property is transferred into an irrevocable trust, you lose ownership and control over that property and you cannot take it back. The trustmaker of a revocable trust reserves the right to dissolve or change that trust at any time, but an irrevocable trust is, for the most part, forever.

Other Types of Trusts

All living trusts are either revocable or irrevocable, but a living trust can be designed to meet other specific purposes as well within these frameworks:

  • An irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) only holds an insurance policy on the trustmaker’s life. The policy is owned by the trust so its proceeds are not generally included in the gross value of the decedent’s estate for estate tax purposes.

  • A special needs trust is set up to provide for a disabled beneficiary in such a way that it does not compromise his or her entititlement to Supplemental Security Income or Medicaid benefits.

  • A spendthrift trust gives the trustee discretion as to how and when distributions should be made to a beneficiary who is not financially responsible, or to safeguard the inheritance in the event the beneificiary divorces.

 

If you want to form a trust for a specific concern or reason, speak with an estate planning attorney. Almost certainly, there’s a trust out there to meet your needs.

Title Insurance: Property Protection or Waste of Money?

What is Title Insurance?

The decision to purchase a home (or other real property) is one of the most important financial decisions you may ever make. However, having the deed to a piece of land does not necessarily mean the property is yours outright. Other people may have certain prior rights or claims that your deed will not erase. Such rights can go back all the way to the earliest owners of your new property. You will want to make sure that you will remain the true owner and that no one will have liens, claims, or encumbrances on your property — other than those which you agreed to.

Title insurance is a contract that protects against losses resulting from various types of defects, as described in the policy, that may exist in the title of a specific parcel of real property. This protection is effective as of the date on which the policy is issued. Title companies issue policies on all types of real property. It insures against financial loss from defects in title to real property and from the invalidity or unenforceability of mortgage loans. Title insurance protects your investment indefinitely. You need to get it.

 

How it Works

Title insurance is different than your ordinary insurance plans. Most other types of insurance are designed to insure future events; you make a reoccurring payment to continue your policy in the future. For example, homeowner’s insurance will cover any unfortunate situations from the moment you purchase your home, and going forward while you own it.

Title insurance is different. When you purchase title insurance it will not only cover for the future throughout the entire time that you own the property, but it also covers every kind of title issue with a property that has happened in the past. Whether you own the property for six months or 50 years, there will never be a difference in your coverage. Title insurance is also different in that it does not have to be renewed.

An important part of title insurance is its emphasis on eliminating risk elimination the title company chooses to insure. This means that the purchaser has the best possible chance for avoiding claims to the title and potential loss. The process of title insuring begins with a search of public land records for matters affecting the title to the real estate. Title companies will check for defects in your title by examining public records including deeds, mortgages, wills, divorce decrees, court judgments, tax records, liens, encumbrances and maps. The title search determines who owns the property, what outstanding debts are against it, and the condition of the title.

Title companies maintain title “plats” which contain information regarding property liens and transfers. A search is intended to fully report all material objections to the title. Often it is found that instruments in the chain (history) of ownership do not pass title to real property free and clear. These problems in the title search need to be corrected before a clear title can be conveyed. Some of the instruments that can present concerns include:

-       Deeds, wills and trusts that contain improper conveyances and incorrect names

-       Outstanding mortgages, judgments and tax liens

-       Easements

-       Incorrect notary acknowledgments

Title problems like these are disclosed by a search so that they can be cleared up as soon as possible. But even the most careful preventive work cannot always locate hidden hazards of the title.

 

What it Protects

 Some of the protections title insurance provides include:

-       Protection from financial loss due to covered claims against your title, up to the face amount

        of the policy.

-       Payment of your legal costs if the title insurance company is required to defend your title  

        against covered claims.

-       Payment of successful claims against your title, up to the face amount of the policy.

Title insurance protects you and your lender if someone challenges your property title because of title defects unknown at the time you bought the policy. Possible title defects include:

-   Errors or omissions in deeds;

-   Mistakes made in examining records;

-   Forgery;

-   Undisclosed heirs;

-   Missing heirs;

-   Liens for unpaid taxes; or

-   Liens by contractors.

Title insurance offers financial protection against these and other hidden hazards through negotiation by the title insurer with third parties, payment for defending against an attack on title as insured and payment of claims.

Title insurance protects the insured from losses resulting from claims against one’s ownership of real estate. It is unique in that it provides protection from problems that occurred even before the insured took title.

Some of the more common hidden risks covered under owner’s title insurance:

·       False impersonation of the true owner;

·       Confusion caused by similar names; 

·       Signatures of minors or people who are not mentally competent;

·       Signatures of people represented as single but who are actually married;

·       Errors in recording legal documents;

·       Clerical errors;

·       Undisclosed or missing heirs; 

·       Fraud and/or Forgery;

·       Invalid divorces;

·       Unpaid child support lien;

·       Unpaid taxes (local, state, federal); and

·       Unrecorded easements (rights of way).

 

The Costs

Most of the costs for title insurance arise from searching public land records, tax assessor records and court documents and analyzing them for risk, clearing matters that can be disposed of and preparing the necessary documents.

The amount and type of coverage provided will determine the cost of premiums. The schedule of rates, forms and any rate modifications are required to be filed with the North Carolina Department of Insurance. Unlike other insurance premiums, the premium for title insurance is a one-time payment. The policy is effective for as long as title (ownership) remains in the name of the purchaser, or his/her heirs.

Title companies usually issue two types of policies: an owner’s policy that insures the buyer for as long as he or she owns the property, and a lender’s policy that insures the lender’s security interest has priority over the claims that others may have in the property. A lender’s policy does not protect the purchaser.

     Owner’s Title Insurance

An owner’s title insurance policy describes the property and defines your ownership “limitations” (if there are any). Limitations could be in the form of existing liens or items disclosed to you before you agreed to the purchase (limitations you have accepted in buying the property). You are not required to buy an owner’s policy.

The owner’s policy remains in effect as long as you or your heirs own the property or when you are liable for any title warranties made when you sell the property. Owners title insurance is ordinarily issued in the amount of the real estate purchase and lasts the duration of the purchaser’s interest in the property. This may even be after the insured has sold the property.

You may want to keep your policy, even if you transfer the title. You cannot transfer your owner’s title policy to a new owner. If the new owners want an owner’s title policy, they must purchase their own policy.

Similarly, when purchasing real property, the prior owner’s policy will not protect you. If you want to protect yourself from claims by others against your new property, you will need an owner’s policy. When a claim does occur, it can be financially devastating to an uninsured owner and likely more expensive than the costs of purchasing title insurance at the outset.

     Lenders’/Mortgagee Title Insurance

When you “close” on your mortgage loan, title insurance may be included in the amount you pay. Most lending institutions will not loan money for a house or other property unless you purchase a “lender’s” or “mortgagee” title policy. This policy protects the lender’s investment by paying the mortgage if a title defect voids the owner’s/buyer’s title. Investors who buy the new loan often require a lender’s title policy. The amount of lender’s title insurance decreases and eventually disappears as the loan is paid off.

 

If You’re Still Not Convinced

There is a wide range of title problems you could have, and should you have one, the bottom-line of the problem is that you do not own the property free and clear. The one-time payment can protect your real property investment indefinitely.

Most title problems can be fixed. Purchasing title insurance can make you aware of the problems and take steps to fix it as soon as possible.

How soon after closing on your property will you get your title insurance policy? Most people have the expectation that they will have their title insurance policy on the day of closing. However, in reality, there are a series of steps that the attorney has to take after closing to get the title insurance issued. The general goal is for the title insurance company to have issued the policy within 30 days of closing.

 

Contact one of the attorneys at Morgan & Perry Law, PLLC today for all your title insurance questions.

Change in North Carolina Law Creates Central Database for Assumed Business Names

On December 1, 2017 a new law in North Carolina took effect that creates a new state-wide searchable database to be administered by the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office.

An assumed business name is the trade name, or fictitious business name, under which a business is conducted and presented to the world. It is not the legal name of the person or entity who actually owns the business and is responsible for it. It is sometimes also referred to as an ABN or Doing Business As (DBA) name. An ABN may be assigned to an individual or an entity (like a corporation or limited liability company). In the event that it is assigned to an individual, the person is still acting as a sole-proprietor (meaning that they do not have any protection from liability if they are sued for something related to their business). 

Before any person engages in business in North Carolina under an Assumed Business Name, that person must file an “Assumed Business Name Certificate” in the office of the Register of Deeds in the county in which the person is or will be engaged in the business.

Prior to the new change, a person would need to file the certificate in each county in which business was to be conducted and pay an additional fee with each filing. With the new database system, a person can file in the Wake County Register of Deeds office with a certificate that covers as many counties as that person desires, including the entire state, and only pay one filing fee. This includes amendments and withdrawals of certificates.

The Register of Deeds then communicates the Assumed Business Name certificate to the Secretary of State’s office who then places the certificate in the central database. Through the Secretary of State internet site one can perform a state-wide assumed name search here: https://www.sosnc.gov/br/search. One can also perform a search in the county Register of Deeds office as well, if they so choose.

The former system continues to run with the new system until December 1, 2022 (the date when all former system filings will expire). Amendments to an assumed name filing under the former system can no longer be made. Filings made under the former system are not automatically converted to the new system and those names will not be in the Secretary of State’s database. In order to switch to the new system, a person need only make a new filing under the new system using the new form.

The current filing fee in Wake County is $26.

 

Contact our office today that your Assumed Business Name filing is up to date under this new Secretary of State database.

Alzheimer's Legal Planning

Alzheimer’s is an unfortunate disease that is currently incurable and can often catch family members by surprise. Alzheimer’s affects an individual’s cognitive abilities and will eventually diminish that individual’s mental capacity to make certain decisions under the law. However, if someone is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, their loved ones can encourage review of estate planning documents before cognitive decline reaches a point where the ailing individual no longer has the mental capacity to make financial and medical decisions on their own.

Memory loss or behavioral changes associated with the first signs of dementia might trigger certain elder law issues if not planned for properly. Alzheimer’s is not preventable and often advances quickly, making early planning extremely important. Early planning can help to prevent asset loss, delayed medical procedures, lengthy guardianship proceedings, and other complications that can get in the way of providing the care that the ailing individual needs.

What should be included in the estate plan of an individual with early onset Alzheimer’s? Some of the first steps for Alzheimer’s legal planning involve documents that appoint another individual or party with control over financial and medical decisions. Choosing a trusted person (or persons) to exercise these powers should be done carefully. Of course, special elder care options should also be reviewed because not all in-home care providers or assisted living facilities offer Alzheimer’s care.

These important estate planning documents grant another person power over financial affairs and healthcare. There are some issues that arise with these documents that should be avoided. One such issue can occur when one person is named on a durable power of attorney and a different person is named on a health care power of attorney. If the person in charge of healthcare decisions cannot receive funds from the person managing financial matters, medical treatments might be compromised.

In Alzheimer’s legal planning, you should identify a trusted person in advance to make these decisions and make sure forms are completed properly and timely. If completion of these documents is delayed, the individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s might lose legal capacity to execute the forms.

What happens to an individual’s care if no forms are present or they have invalid Powers of Attorney? A guardianship proceeding would typically be required, during which a court-appointed person becomes the guardian over the incompetent person’s (“ward’s”) affairs. 

Alzheimer’s legal planning must take into account state and federal laws as well as public benefit programs such as Medicaid to forecast costs of care and cover the associated expenses. Our attorneys can review an individual’s assets and advise ways of titling assets, leveraging trusts, and using other tools to help protect assets and offset costs for Alzheimer’s care.

When families look for facilities that specialize in Alzheimer’s care they quickly learn how much more expensive this particular area of healthcare is compared to other forms of care. Patients and residents with memory loss require close monitoring, and this contributes to higher expenses. As of 2014, the average monthly cost for Alzheimer’s care in North Carolina was $4,342, according to A Place for Mom. Wake County provides a host of resources for Alzheimer's care and support and can be found in this directory: Resources for Seniors Directory

 

Remember that early planning is key to avoiding these major headaches of dealing and lets you maintain your focus of providing care for your loved ones. Contact Morgan & Perry Law, PLLC today for you Alzheimer’s legal planning needs. 

Five Reasons LegalZoom Can be Detrimental to Your Estate Plan

With the advancement of the Internet and the convenience that accompanies it, more and more entities are emerging that attempt to provide simplicity and convenience to solving your legal needs and providing legal documents. However, such convenience can disguise long-term negative consequences. Here are some common negative consequences of using LegalZoom and similar Internet-based programs for your estate plan:

1.    LegalZoom does not provide personal legal advice. While LegalZoom provides convenience and quick access to estate planning documents from the convenience of your couch, the program does not provide you with legal advice that is personal and tailored to achieve your specific goals. Meeting with an attorney face-to-face allows an attorney to understand exactly what your goals are and help you achieve those goals within the confines of the law. At Morgan & Perry Law, we take a holistic approach to meeting your legal needs. This means that we focus on the whole person and the whole of the problem as a way of finding more healthy and sustainable solutions to legal problems. LegalZoom does not provide you with any advice, only a blank to fill-in on a document.

2.    The savings now may not be worth the long-term costs. LegalZoom does provide a cheaper alternative than using an attorney for your estate planning needs, there is no dispute about that. However, that money you save right now by using LegalZoom will likely be substantially less than the costs that will arise should the LegalZoom documents be deficient. If the LegalZoom documents turn out to be deficient, many costs may arise such as the costs of probate, litigation for will contests, and the like. While such issues may only arise after your death, they will provide an additional headache to loved ones while they are already grieving their loss. Such headache and costs can be avoided by taking the time to meet with an attorney for your estate plan and spending more money now for an attorney’s services.

3.    LegalZoom is not always up-to-date on changes in the law. Attorneys are required to provide competent legal representation to their clients. This requires them to stay up-to-date on the current state of the law in their jurisdiction and be aware of changes in the law and apply those changes to their practice. LegalZoom, despite its convenience, is not always the most up-to-date on the changes of the law in a particular jurisdiction creating the potential for extensive problems with the estate planning documents they provide. Using an attorney for your estate planning needs will ensure that your estate documents comply with the law in its current state.

4.    You may not get to have your day in court. While LegalZoom provides you with estate planning documents that they purport to be valid and sufficient, they display a disclaimer that you may have missed. That disclaimer states that even though you are using LegalZoom to create your estate plan, using their services does not create any sort of attorney-client relationship. Since no attorney-client relationship is created by using LegalZoom, if it comes to light that your estate planning documents are deficient you will likely not be able to sue them for malpractice. In this situation, you would be left with a worthless piece of paper and no recourse.

5.    Your family and life savings are too important to cut corners! The purpose of an estate plan is to provide for your family in the event of your death. LegalZoom may be convenient and quick and easy, but it has many pitfalls. Don’t let convenience and simplicity cause additional financial and emotional hardships for your family whilst they are grieving your death. Contact our firm today for your estate planning needs and avoid the higher costs that can arise in the long run from cutting corners by using LegalZoom.

So your spouse wants a divorce...

Going through a divorce that you don’t want is especially difficult.  The news can be shocking and emotionally devastating.  However, it is crucial for you to not stand by during this time of pain. A divorce lawyer can help you understand your legal situation and choose the best plan of action.

Communicating with your spouse calmly is beneficial. If you would like to pursue an alternative to divorce, such as counseling, try to talk it through with your spouse. Understand that your spouse may refuse and proceed with the divorce. Also know that even if your spouse agrees, counseling does not work for everyone and may not resolve the issues.

Regardless of how your spouse responds, having an experienced attorney on your side during the process can be both assuring and informative. Without a lawyer, agreements between you and your spouse have the potential to become unfair. Hard issues such as child custody are often very emotional, and you should have counsel to encourage and guide you through this process.

An attorney will be able to explain the legal process and which steps are next during this time. Your attorney will be equipped to prepare you for the demanding questions that arise over issues such as who will get the home, who will have custody of the children, and whether spousal support is necessary. Every case is different, but an attorney can help gather the important information specific to you to best advocate for your interests.

Contact Morgan & Perry Law, PLLC today, so they we can help you through this difficult time. Our attorneys know how to navigate the legal process, taking the burden off of you and allowing you to focus on the next step.

Do I Need An Attorney for my Traffic Ticket?

Traffic tickets do not always appear to be serious criminal charges that will change our lives, so many people think that it may not be necessary to hire an attorney for this type of representation. 

You have a number of options. You may:

     1.     just pay the ticket

     2.     go to court and represent yourself

     3.     hire an attorney to represent you

If you ‘just pay it off,’ you should know that payment is the equivalent of admitting responsibility or guilt (depending on the offense indicated on the citation) to what you have been charged with. Many traffic citations have more than one charge, and if you pay off the ticket, you will likely be admitting to all the charges listed. Each of these charges may have an effect on your Driver’s License points, and also on your insurance points. As most people know, you will lose your license if you accumulate too many driver’s license points. Likewise, your insurance will increase when you get insurance points. So, just paying off your traffic tickets may end up costing you additional insurance, which may last for multiple years. Points can even cost you your privilege to drive. In either case, the cost of increased insurance or losing your license can be considerably more expensive than the cost of an attorney to represent you.

The next choice you have is to go to court and represent yourself. This is almost always an option.  Our United States and North Carolina Constitutions allow almost anyone to represent himself or herself in most courts. Attorneys are not necessarily smarter or more talented than non-attorneys, but they represent clients every day. When something is done on a daily basis, a person usually becomes skilled at such work. Also, with licensed attorneys, we are obligated by law to know the law and know the consequences of representation. In other words, we can advise a client on the ramifications of different dispositions or how the way a ticket is handled in court will affect your future insurance or driver’s license.  

Some people fix their own cars and plumbing and install new circuits in their electrical junction boxes in their homes. If a person knows exactly what he or she is doing, and has the proper skills, this can be fine. Of course, if you do not fix your car properly, or you do not connect your pipes right, or the connection you made in your electric box is faulty, such mistakes can be costly and even dangerous. So, the money you save on a mechanic, plumber or electrician may be nothing compared to the damage or injury caused by doing it yourself. The same can be true when you try to handle a traffic ticket on your own. You should know that the law prohibits a District Attorney or Assistant District Attorney from giving advice about how a particular result or disposition of your ticket will affect your insurance or your license. So, do not look to the opposition for help. 

Your final option is to hire an attorney to represent you with your traffic offense. In most cases, the attorney can appear for you and you will not have to miss a day from work or anything else you would rather do than go to court. Of course, the attorney will develop an understanding of your individual driving record and driving needs and concerns. From there, he or she will navigate through the most beneficial result to try to prevent an increase in your insurance rates or detrimental points against your license. Not every representation can result in a dismissal or significant benefit to the client, but an attorney who practices every day will be in an excellent position to seek a disposition that protects you, your money, and your driver’s license. 

 

Contact Morgan & Perry Law, P.L.L.C. today for more information of how we can help you with your traffic ticket needs.

Estate Planning Over The Holidays

Thanksgiving and the holiday season are upon us. It’s a chance for us to gather with family, celebrate time-honored traditions, and eat lots of delicious food. It is also an opportunity for families to discuss estate-planning goals and plan for the future.

 

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No matter what stage of life you are in, planning for the future is important. While ensuring that your loved ones are prepared if something happens to you is a necessary component, these conversations should also include more joyful matters— such as career ambitions, big moves, and a growing family. A short conversation now will help you realize all we have to be thankful for and save you from tremendous headaches in the future.

 

Here are a few tips for starting a conversation about estate planning:

1.     Be courageous in the conversation.  Many believe the topic to be too dark or morbid. The conversations can prevent future surprises, help with financial planning now, and foster harmony among your relatives.

2.      Find the right time. Some people prefer to plan or schedule a time for the family to sit down and talk. However, during the holidays, it may be best to multitask the conversation. For instance, bring up the topic as part of the normal conversation while cooking or eating dessert.

3.     Introduce the topic gently. Many people find it helpful to introduce the topic by using a story. This could be a change in your own life, such as a promotion or planned move; a discussion on how you created your own estate plan; or the death of a friend or celebrity. These stories can help you transition into the preparedness of your own family.

4.     Consider your situation. Depending on your family dynamic, should you have one big discussion or a series of talks? Should you talk to your family as a group or talk individually with family members? For instance, a parent may want to discuss their estate plan with each adult child individually to reduce the potential for a hostile audience. 

5.     Focus on the joy. The conversation need not revolve around death. The concept could be that “you’ll have to do it eventually, why put it of” or “now that we have children, we should get wills drafted.”

 

Once you’ve had these discussions and enjoyed this special time of year, Morgan & Perry Law, P.L.L.C. would be happy to help you start the New Year on a strong note by helping you implement these plans. Until then, be sure to enjoy this time with your family and friends.

 

Morgan & Perry Law, P.L.L.C. wishes you a very happy Thanksgiving full of food and fellowship. Also, remember to support your local small businesses during Small Business Saturday!