Frequently Asked Questions: Elder Law

What is Elder Law?

Elder Law is an area of law focused on legally protecting the physical and financial health of our older population.  If one qualifies for AARP membership, one is part of this demographic.

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As people age, why is some form of estate planning so important?

As we age, our legal needs change. Health concerns and issues surrounding death and dying become more real, as friends and family members start experiencing such transitions. Failure to have the right documents takes away our voice and in some instances our personal freedom. Planning for the eventuality of death or the possibility of illness, allows us to protect our personal decisions about health care and the financial well being of our family. We often listen to people talk about planning from an interesting perspective. Almost everyone inadvertently says the word “if”. “If I die this is what I want to happen.”  That is a large part of the reason so many people in Greensboro die without an estate plan. And, “if”, pardon, “when” you die without an estate plan, North Carolina has a plan that automatically goes into affect which most people wouldn’t care for.

What are some of the basics of estate planning?

The most basic estate plan should consist of six documents: a will which denotes who takes over and who gets what when you die; a power of attorney, which covers who will take over your finances if  you become disabled; a health care power of attorney which handles your medical wishes and the person who should make all of your medical decisions if you can’t; a living will which states whether you want to be kept alive by artificial means, if there is a legal determination that all “hope” of recovery is gone; a HIPPA form to denote who in your family is allowed to speak to a physician, pick up prescriptions and transfer medical information and finally, an estate planning letter which indicates your wishes regarding burial and funeral decisions.

North Carolina changed the Health Care Directives, namely the Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will, and added the HIPPA document the end of 2007. So please check and make sure that you have the most recent forms. Most health care directives in your files, dated prior to 2008, are not the best documents you can have in this state.

Should I Transfer My Home to My Children?

Please don’t transfer your home to your children for a few dollars, and don’t put your home in your children’s names. Your efforts likely won’t protect the home or keep it from being lost to nursing home care. While there are legal strategies that may be utilized to protect your home, such steps should only be taken by a skilled Elder Law Attorney. While it may sound logical, giving the home to your children, selling it for a few dollars, or putting their names on the deed, it often doesn’t protect the home from being counted as an asset of your estate in North Carolina. There are numerous gifting rules and look back rules which are in place specifically to thwart such transfers. Also, on top of not accomplishing what you thought you were accomplishing, by naming your children on your real estate, you may inadvertently expose your home to unforeseen problems that may befall your children. When a child owns your home, IRS liens, Judgements, Lawsuits, Divorce, Bankruptcy, and Death often result in your home being legally recognized as your child’s property. What if your son or daughter dies before you? It’s likely that your home goes to their spouse and/or children because it’s not legally your home anymore. Again, there are numerous pitfalls for the unwary, and this type of planning should only be addressed by a skilled Elder Law Attorney. Please let us know if we may help

What sets The Law Offices of Cheryl David apart from other attorneys that do estate planning?

Most, if not all, of the estate planning attorneys we know, in this state, are excellent. North Carolina has incredible credentialing and continuing education, but my gift is my ability, after 22 years in practice, of sitting down with a family and making them comfortable discussing issues most of us would rather not discuss. When we offer solutions, we make sure that they are straightforward and understandable. We speak in English, not Legalese. Our consultations are always “free”, so that people aren’t scared about what it’s going to cost. And when we do get around to the cost, we quote flat fees, up front, so that you know you will never be charged anything, but the fee you were quoted. Phone calls and follow-up visits are also complimentary. Our firm philosophy is “The Golden Rule”.

What can someone expect to get from one of your free workshops?

Our free workshops are a great way to come and learn about elder law and estate planning and ask questions without any pressure.  We try to keep them short, about an hour and 15 minutes, in a nice environment like the O. Henry, Proximity or your local church or civic group, and if nothing else, the coffee and snacks are usually pretty good.

What would some of your clients say about their experience with working with The Law Office of Cheryl David?

My favorite days are days like yesterday, when a new client calls up to tell me that they’ve never called an attorney’s office before, to compliment them on the entire overall experience. She praised my help, the assistance of my wonderful associate and commended my incredible staff.   She further stated that the process was understandable, quick and organized process. Then she said the words which touched my heart, “I finally feel protected and at peace.” That’s the kind of day where I love my job.

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