Harley M. Sacks, Attorney at Law
Wills, Trusts, Estate Planning, Succession and Business Planning
for a free Consultation
The following are some frequently asked questions. If you have a question that is not addressed, please feel free to contact me by telephone or email.
Question: What are your office hours?
- Office hours are by appointment only. Usually weekdays during traditional office hours. If your schedule does not permit this, special arrangements may be made.
Question: How do I make an appointment?
- Call the number below or email us from the Contact Us page.
Question: Is there a charge for the first meeting?
- Free Initial Meeting: Mr. Sacks believes that it is important for the client to meet with him in person and for all to determine their compatibility. There is no charge to meet and have a general discussion. This usually lasts a half hour.
- Fees: Mr. Sacks believes that the fees must be competitive and fair. Prior to incurring any charges, the fees will be clearly discussed and agreed upon.
Question: What should I bring with me for our first appointment?
- Copies of all existing documents, such as: wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and health care directives. If unsure, bring it.
- Also bring copies of the ownership papers for all assets such as: deeds, bank accounts, and securities. We want to verify in exactly whose name each asset is held and if there are any survivorship concerns.
Question: What do you mean by Trust?
- A Trust can have many names. The following are a few of the more common titles: Living Trust, Revocable Trust, Irrevocable Trust, Insurance Trust, and Crummey Trust. In all instances, trusts are arrangements where someone (sometimes a bank or trust company) controls, directs, and manages specific property. The type of trust will depend upon the nature of the property (real estate, insurance, securities, etc.), the length of time the trust is expected to exist, and its tax consequences. Trusts are primary tools used to limit death taxes and minimize the costs and fees to settle your estate. The existence of a trust does not eliminate the need for a Will.
- There are also trusts referred to as Special Needs Trusts. These are commonly used when a primary beneficiary has disabilities or is receiving some governmental assistance.
Question: What if I do not have a Will or a Trust?
- It is time to discuss what is appropriate for you. Many people have only a Will, and many have no documents. That may be fine, but in many instances it exposes your estate (and by extension your family) to the possibility of increased death taxes and costs and fees to settle your estate. If you do not have any documents, North Carolina law determines who shall inherit your money.
Question: Can I tell people about my health care wishes?
- Yes. North Carolina allows you to express your wishes and desires on several health related matters. Who will make health care decisions for you if you are unable to express your wishes? Should life be prolonged through extra-ordinary methods? Under what circumstances should medical care be stopped or withheld? Do you wish to make organ donation? There are many other health related matters to discuss. This is one part of the estate planning process.
Question: What is involved regarding the Power of Attorney?
- Part of a comprehensive estate plan is to anticipate that during your lifetime you may not be able to make your own financial decisions due to illness, absence, or disinterest. A Power of Attorney allows you to designate a person to make those decisions when the need arises. This is part of estate planning. What are the limitations on the person acting under the Power of Attorney? When does the Power of Attorney become operative? Who decides it is time to use the Power of Attorney? These questions are all discussed in the estate planning interview. Often the Power of Attorney is used in conjunction with and as a supplement to a living trust.
Question: I own everything jointly, isn't that enough?
- The manner in which property is owned will impact death taxes; will determine who receives the property; and how quickly the estate will be settled. Joint ownership with survivorship may be appropriate, but it is only effective when the first of two joint owners die. What happens when the second owner dies, or if both owners die together? Will the same asset be taxed twice? Jointly-owned property certainly may have a place in an estate plan, but the consequences of joint ownership must be discussed and understood.
Question: I have all of the documents, but do they need to be changed?
- Your documents were drawn at a certain point in time. Since then many changes may have occurred such as: the estate tax rate; how large an estate is subject to tax; North Carolina estate tax may be different than the state you came from; beneficiaries may have had grandchildren; a beneficiary may have become incapacitated or died; you may have had an inheritance; or suffered financial loss or gain.
- For all the above reasons, an estate plan should be reviewed upon the happening of such an event or every three to five years just to be sure. It is my practice not to charge for such a discussion and only to charge when documents are created or revised.
A good estate plan should be easy to live with. It should not be so complex that you feel like you have lost control, or that your quality of life is diminished. Just the contrary, when completed, an estate plan should allow you to feel in control without any burden: that you have addressed the concerns of the next generation and provided for them in a thoughtful, cost effective, and comfortable manner.