Sep 03
The Pros and Cons of Do It Yourself Estate Planning

I recently had a conversation with a person who stated that "I can't afford an attorney to do my estate planning…especially when there are services that will do those documents for free."

I support any organization like the Legal Services for the Southern Piedmont or Legal Aid of North Carolina that finds Attorneys who will donate their time to do these Pro Bono Services; or even Estate Planning Clinics where Attorneys will volunteer to do estate planning documents for free through the Mecklenburg County Bar or the North Carolina Bar Association.  I am one of these attorneys who participates in Pro Bono Services with these organizations.

However, if the organization where you receive your Estate Planning Documents are non-attorneys or document preparers the savings you may receive, may cost you more in the end.

It is true that these services may be free or budget friendly; or you can go purchase a software program that will create a will for you for a nominal fee, but they cannot give you the peace of mind in knowing that your documents follow all the North Carolina Requirements and are tailored specifically for you. Also if your documents are found to be invalid, your Executors or Beneficiaries of your Estate will have to pay a Probate Attorney, like me, to help prove the accuracy of your will, get advice on what to do if your Will is invalidated, or to represent your estate through Probate. These services are far more expensive than having your estate documents prepared correctly, the first time.

A North Carolina Estate Planning Attorney is the only one who can create estate planning documents that are tailored to your specific needs and desires. Non-attorneys are not allowed to practice law and cannot tailor any documents to a client specific situation.

If you want to be certain that your Estate Planning Documents are tailored to your specific desires and conform to the North Carolina Requirements, hiring a North Carolina Estate Planning Attorney is the only way to ensure this.

Whichever option you choose, it is important to prepare for the future by having Estate Planning Documents…. But Going to a North Carolina Estate Planning Attorney to create your Estate Planning Documents is investment into your future and the future of your beneficiaries

The Law Office of J.G. Caldwell, PLLC has experience in providing North Carolina families with Estate Planning that is tailored to their specific needs and we give each client the attention they deserve. Call today for a free consultation! And remember, Being Proactive is the Best Preparation!

Oct 28
Estate Debts

I was recently asked this question and I thought it would be important to share the question and answer with others.

"If you are to receive an inheritance from a will and the decedent has debts that exceed the total assets held in the actual estate, will the beneficiaries of the will be held responsible for paying the debt of the decedent?"

Generally in North Carolina once debts are paid during probate from a decedent's estate funds, a beneficiary will usually receive the funds that remain from the estate (if there are funds left over). However the amount of the inheritance that you are going to receive can be affected indirectly and negatively by the debt. Your inheritance can be less or even become completely depleted if the debt exceeds the actual funds in the estate (meaning the estate is INSOLVENT). While it is true that you will not have to pay this debt from your actual pocket after your inheritance has been depleted, you are indirectly paying for the debts of the decedent through your inheritance.

It is important to remember that if the decedent had any debts that were shared with a surviving spouse, the surviving spouse will be responsible for those debts because it is martial debt. There are many other factors that must be assessed to determine if you will be responsible for a decedent's debt, especially if you were a co-signer or co-guarantor on a debt.

But generally if the total assets of the estate (including any inheritance) are depleted in paying off a decedent's debt, you as a beneficiary are not liable for any remaining debt and the debt will most likely be written off.

Note: The Executor of a will IS NOT PERSONALLY responsible for decedent's debts from his own assets, but generally as part of their duties they must notify creditors of the death, among many other things.  

Please remember it is extremely important to update your will if you have any major life changes (marriages, divorces, deaths of beneficiaries, etc.) and to make sure that you have all of your estate planning documents up to date! If you have any questions similar to these or need a consultation, please do not hesitate to contact me!

Jun 23
Various Legal Resources

​This is a list of links that may be helpful if you need to find court information for Mecklenburg or Cabarrus County.

Mecklenburg County Courthouse

Cabarrus County Courthouse

With either of these links you can find hours of operation for the courthouse, court dates, and other important information for the courthouse.

North Carolina Family Law Statutes 

This is a link to the NC General Statutes for Family Law. These statutes are technical, however they may provide you with helpful information.

Charlotte, NC Immigration Court and Helpful Information

In light of the changes to Immigration Law I thought this link would be helpful. It contains information about Charlotte Immigration Court, Legal Aid, certain forms and filing requirements. 


Jun 23
Estate Planning FAQS

Below are some common questions and answers about estate planning, especially regarding making a will.

Why should I prepare a will?

A will protects your interests in your property after you die. It is a legally binding document that dictates what property a person may inherit after a loved one dies. Many wills also contain provisions that name an executor, power of attorney and a guardian for the care of any minor children. It can also establish the provisions of a living will.

If I do not have a will, what will happen to my property if I die?

If you die without a will, this is called intestate. The North Carolina Intestate Succession Act will dictate the inheritance rights of the decedent's property. Generally the spouse and children (also known as issue) are first to inherit under intestacy laws. If there is not a spouse or children, then usually parents, siblings, and grandparents are the next to inherit. If there are no relatives that qualify then the state will be given the property.

Is a handwritten will (holographic will) valid in NC?  

Yes, as long as the correct formalities are followed under North Carolina law.

Can I revise my will after it is made?

Yes, by executing a new will or by making additions through a codicil.  A written will can generally only be legally revoked by an express statement in a new will that revokes all previous wills.

These are just preliminary questions you may have when deciding whether or not to prepare a will. Since no one can predict the future, it is better to be prepared. If you need any further information or believe you need a consultation, please fill out the consultation form or feel free to contact me by phone.