Trying to plan your North Carolina estate? Get the answers you need to protect your family.

A list of the most frequently asked questions in response those who need help protecting their families with North Carolina estate plans.

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  • What is the estate tax exemption?

    The estate tax is exemption is the amount that you can pass free of estate tax upon your death.

    Federal Estate Tax Rules:

    For 2017, the Federal estate tax exemption amount is $5.49 million.

    Although this should be applied "per person", due to nuances of how the estate tax exemption works, many married couples "miss out" on using one of their estate tax exemptions.  A properly structured estate plan for a married couple can ensure that both spouses exemptions are maximized so as to pass on $10.98 million or more to children and family free of federal estate taxes.

    The estate tax exemption is based upon the tax rates upon your date of death, thus the federal estate tax exemption could increase or decrease in the future. As such, it is important to regularly review the estimated value of your gross estate and your estate planning.

    For estate tax purposes, your gross estate generally consists of all assets that you own such as bank accounts, savings accounts, CDs, brokerage or investment accounts, stocks, bonds, retirement plans (401Ks, IRAs, etc.), annuities, real estate, business interests, and death benefit of life insurance, less any debts such as a mortgage.

    North Carolina Estate Tax Rules:

    North Carolina repealed the state-level estate tax in 2013, so for those dying on or after January 1, 2013, no North Carolina estate tax will be owed.

  • How much does the workshop cost? How long does it last? Do I need to bring anything?

    It is free! We think it is very important to educate our community and this is one of the many ways that we do this. Feel free to browse our free materials and information on our website or at our Learning Center while you are in our office.


    The workshop last two hours. Don't worry, the time flies by! You do not need to bring anything with you. We provide everything you need, plus light refreshments.

  • What's next after I attend a workshop?

    Once you have attended the workshop, our office will follow up with you to discuss your initial consultation with Jackie and see if it is appropriate to schedule an appointment to explore how we can assist you.

  • Can I bring a friend and/or family member with me to a workshop?

    Yes, of course! We encourage you to bring along anyone on your team. Due to limited seating, we just ask that you register each attendee so we can ensure enough seats for all attendees.

  • Does my spouse have to attend the workshop with me or can I just relay the information that I learn?

    There is a lot of information packed into the workshop! We find that it is difficult for clients to relay the stories and their importance once they leave our office. In the past, when we've worked with clients where only one spouse attended the workshop, we found that the non-attending spouse was at a disadvantage during the planning process and were more likely to feet a bit overwhelmed.

  • Why should I attend a workshop prior to meeting with Jackie?

    We find that when people attend a workshop before their initial meeting, it's a much less overwhelming process. Rather than Jackie trying to teach you a lot of information during the meeting, she can instead focus on helping you uncover your planning goals. We feel so strongly about workshop attendance that we waive the initial consultation fee if you attend a workshop first.

  • What will I learn at the workshop?

    You will learn estate planning basics such as wills, trusts, health care directives, and powers of attorney. More importantly, you will learn the importance and the power of these documents and how they work upon disability or death. We also spend time teaching you how to plan for the future and possible long-term care costs. We use several stories during the workshp to help you uncover what planning goals are most important to you.

  • What is a will?

    A Will, or Last Will and Testament, is a legal document in which you designate how you want your property to pass and to whom it passes at your death. For example, a Will may be used to specify who will receive your home or other real estate, your automobile, furniture, jewelry, bank accounts and more. If you have minor children, a Will may be used to designate a guardian to care for your children at your death.  A Will also gives you the power to designate a personal representative, sometimes referred to as an executor, to handle the affairs of your estate at your death. 

    A will may also include one or more testamentary trusts—these are trusts that will be set up upon your death based on the instructions contained within the will.  A trust is a legal entity that holds assets and property.  The trustee (selected by you in the will) is responsible for managing the assets and property according to your instructions on behalf of certain beneficiaries named by you. 

    Reasons for including testamentary trusts might include: protecting the inheritance of minor beneficiaries so they don’t blow it all at age 18, protecting the inheritance of disabled or special needs beneficiaries so they don’t lose their critical public assistance benefits, reducing estate taxes, or various other reasons.

  • What is a revocable living trust?

    A trust is a legal entity set up by a “trustmaker” (sometimes referred to as a grantor or settler).  Within the trust document, the trustmaker designates a “trustee” to hold and manage assets on behalf of certain beneficiaries specified within the trust document.  A revocable living trust is one that an individual sets up during their lifetime, typically naming him or herself as the initial trustee, with instructions about how the assets owned by the trust are to be managed during his or her  lifetime and upon death.

    Here’s another way of thinking about:  Imagine you set up a box and you put everything you own—bank accounts, real estate, investments, etc. into that box.  Attached to the box is a very detailed set of instructions written it by you.  It specifies who will manage the assets within the box (typically you, but you’ve also named successors in the event of your disability or death) and who can benefit from the assets in the box—i.e., who can we spend on?  So, for example, if you are married with young children, your trust might specify that while you are living, the trust assets can be used to take care of you, your spouse and your children.  The trust would also specify how you want your assets managed and distributed upon your death.

    The term “revocable” indicates that as the trustmaker you retained the rights to amend the terms of the trust or revoke it entirely.  You also have the right to add or remove property from the trust at any time.

  • Do I need a will or a revocable living trust?

    One of the most common questions we receive is the issues of wills vs. trusts and which is “better.”  The bottom line is it ultimately depends on you, your family, and your planning goals.  Our office regularly helps clients establish both will-based and trust-based estate plans, depending upon their needs.

    During our process, we first will educate you about the various estate planning tools and the goals we can accomplish through planning.  We’ll then conduct and estate plan audit with you, to help you pinpoint your most important goals and based on this audit, we’ll help you select whether a will-based plan or trust-based plan is the right fit for you.  Click here to learn more about the benefits of using a revocable living trust.

    If you have a living trust-based estate plan, you should also have what is often referred to as a ‘pour-over will.’