Do we really want to talk about either one of these? You bet we do! I sought wisdom from by good friend Dr. Charles Rawlings to get his take on the double D'2...
“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” Woody Allen
The majority of men echo that sentiment, and they are the very ones who inevitably ask legal questions concerning death. “I don’t want to live like a vegetable.” “I want to make my own decision about pulling the plug.” “I want to die with dignity and not be a burden.” “Do I need a will?” “How do I protect my family financially after I am gone?” These are all very valid concerns and each has a simple answer- well, mostly.
Each person should have a living will. This document allows the person to state clearly and legally their preference for care if they become terminal or in a vegetative state. The form can be found online for North Carolina and is easily completed. Have one! You also need a healthcare power of attorney. This provides a person with knowledge that if they become physically or mentally incapacitated, that their assets and decisions are in good shape. Again, the document can be found online and is legally binding. Have one!
Make a will! Drafting a will is actually simple and painless but more especially, allows the person to pass along his holdings to those whom he chooses. Absent a will, a person’s estate is divided according to intestacy laws- your mother could end up owning part of you assets. That being said, probate, the process by which a deceased person’s assets are transferred to the people who inherit them, can be costly and time-consuming. North Carolina, however, allows several methods of bypassing probate.
You can establish a living trust to avoid probate for almost all of your assets. You establish a trust document naming someone to take over as trustee at your death. You are the trustee until your death. You then transfer whatever asset you want to the trust with you acting as trustee. At that point, the property is controlled by the terms of the trust and, at your death, it transfers to the beneficiaries outside probate.
Joint ownership is another very simple method of avoiding probate and is frequent among married couples. The property such as real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, security etc. is owned jointly with right of survivorship. If one joint owner dies, the property automatically becomes the property of the living joint owner.
Two other simple constructs include: payable on death designations for bank accounts and transfer on death registration for securities. Both act in essentially the same way. The person who owns the deposits or securities designates or registers the funds or securities with these two designations. Upon the person’s death, the bank account or security transfer directly to the named beneficiary outside of probate.
While these are rather simplistic explanations, the above-mentioned documents and actions will allow you to die in the manner in which you desire plus financially protect those whom you want to have as beneficiaries. Death is inevitable but you can control a great deal about what happens before!
Next entry, I’ll talk about the second D- divorce!
“Once you do embark upon the separation or divorce process, it is very important to remember three things: Be kind, be reasonable, be brief. Remember that this person will no longer be your spouse but he or she will continue to be your co-parent, family member and perhaps even a business partner.” Laura Wasse.
To Be Continued
Charles E. Rawlings, M.D., J.D.
The information provided in the foregoing article is for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, and does not constitute legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. Persons in need of legal advice related to a subject discussed in the article should contact a lawyer who is qualified to practice in that area of law. The article is the property of the author.