July 17, 2024

Estate Planning Lawyer, Cheryl R. Watkins

For superior estate planning services, contact Cheryl Watkins for a consultation today.

Estate Planning Basics

Getting Down to the Basics of Estate Planning…

In General
By definition, an estate plan is an arrangement for your assets and debts upon your incapacity and death. The law has a default estate plan for us all called Intestacy. This default arrangement is often more costly than the plan you would make and it will never take into account your personal preferences. In fact, in North Carolina, most of the decisions will be made by the Clerk of Superior Court or one of her agents using the law of Intestacy as well as any relevant local rules. Although the Clerk will do her best to oversee the administration of your estate – along with the other thousands of estates for which she is responsible – this procedure will most often not reflect the choices you would have made for yourself had you used the opportunity you had during your life and good health to put your own preferences in writing.

If you create an estate plan before you die or become incapacitated, it will take into account at minimum your ABCs. That is, your Assets, Bills, and Children. And a complete estate plan will also cover your health care during your life. If you take the time to prepare an estate plan, before you pass away, it will always more preferable and less expensive than the alternative default arrangement the law has in place for you. These estate planning basics will help guide you through the beginning stages of the process and hopefully help set your mind at ease.

The typical tools used by an estate planning attorney are: Wills, Financial Powers of Attorney, Health Care Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, and Trusts. [Read more…]

Hot Estates – Predicting When Your Estate Will Have Problems

Estate planning is important for everyone but especially important for those of us who already have combustible issues in their lives. If we fail to plan when we have unsettled problems, then when we die we are guaranteeing family conflicts and expensive legal battles will flame up.

Often, we know the source of potential drama. But sometimes we are not aware that certain aspects of our financial situations and relationship dynamics are breeding grounds for these conflicts. I call them HotPoints.

HotPoints are unresolved situations in our lives now that might cause problems later. I have included a few of these HotPoints here so you can see how they can help you detect problems which might arise later. [Read more…]

Estate Planning Issues in Domestic Partnerships

Same-sex couples face extraordinary challenges in estate planning. This Law Office welcomes people from all walks of life and those with alternative lifestyles. We will prepare you and your estate plan for the particular issues which may present themselves upon the incapacity – be it temporary or permanent – and upon the death of you or your domestic partner. In many ways, estate planning for gay and lesbian domestic partners is more critical than it is for legally married couples. Some issues commonly faced by domestic partners are: [Read more…]

Estate Planning for Stress Avoidance and Stress Reduction


We all worry about the future. Because we can’t predict or control it. The best thing we can do is get ready for it. Drafting your will is a great way to eliminate unnecessary stress about the unknown. By putting in writing what our plans and wishes are, we reduce worry for ourselves and our families about the future.

Think about it, we are stressed out about the people and things in our lives that are important to us. We want to make sure our family is taken care of. That usually means providing shelter, food, education, and medical care for them. But we all know that we need to take care of them in other ways too.
[Read more…]

Incentive Trusts

One variation of trusts which is creating a lot of excitement with parents is called The Incentive Trust.

Traditionally, a trust would, at most, specify the age at which a beneficiary would receive money. However, often the unintended result would be, in the absence of your guidance, the creation of brats or unproductive adults. In general, parents do not want this. Parents generally want their kids to be successful, educated, happy, and well adjusted. Parents do not want their kids to lack motivation, ambition, or fall prey to bad habits. Even after they are gone. [Read more…]

Ethical Wills and Legacy Planning – The Heart and Soul of Estate Planning

We’ve all seen it before, the backbone of the family dies leaving no will, trust, or insurance and – with her gone – the family fell apart. Family fights erupted and what assets she was able to accumulate during her life have dwindled away to pay unnecessary probate costs, attorney fees, taxes, and the cost of court battles waged over her estate by the family she left behind. Eventually, her family scattered to the winds, taking away with them only resentment of each other and virtually no memory of what she tried to instill in them. That is her legacy.

Legacy Planning is critical for us all to do. It can be simple, painless, and the most valuable investment we make in our family. Legacy Planning is comprised of two elements: Estate Planning and creation of what is called an Ethical Will. [Read more…]

Business Succession Planning

A business succession plan is like estate planning for your business. And just like humans, businesses have a life cycle.

First, in the beginning of our business, we may have incorporated them, gotten a tax-id number, and gotten our permits and licenses to conduct business in the state.

Then, during the life of our businesses we devote much time and money nurturing it, marketing, developing, networking, researching, and sacrificing time away from family and a fun social life. Our businesses represent a huge, valuable investment of ourselves.
[Read more…]

When Should An Estate Plan Be Reviewed

If you already have an estate plan, it should not be considered permanent. Conditions, as well as your desires, change. Your plan will try to fairly anticipate some of these changes within reason. However, even though it may be a forward looking plan, we all have to revisit our estate plans to update them for events which happen to us.

I advise my clients to review their plans annually, maybe around the holidays or at their birthdate, and come back to me to discuss them if something significant happened that year. [Read more…]

What Can An Estate Plan Do For You?

When a person dies without having a valid estate plan in place, his or her property passes by what is called “intestate succession” to heirs according to state law. In other words, if a person doesn’t have a will, the state will make one for him or her. However, this generic default can differ dramatically from what the person actually would have wished for their belongings and loved ones. Even when it is known by all involved what the person “would have wanted,” no exceptions are made where no valid will exists. Nor are there any exceptions made based on need, hardship, or special circumstances. [Read more…]