A will, the cornerstone of estate planning law, is a legal document created under provisions of North Carolina state law that provides for the transfer of assets of the person making the will (a Testator or Testatrix) at his or her death. The directives in a will are carried out through the process of a probate proceeding at the local courthouse.
A revocable trust is a legal entity created by private agreement among certain parties that provides for the management of assets both during the life of the person making the trust (the Grantor, Trustor or Trustmaker), including during incapacity, and also upon his or her death. Carrying out the provisions of a trust takes place without the requirement of probate or any court proceeding.
Durable powers of attorney are documents which provide for the appointment of an Agent to manage the legal and financial affairs of the person making the power of attorney (the Principal). These documents usually empower the Agent, acting in a "fiduciary capacity," to handle all aspects of the Principal's personal, financial and legal affairs.
Health Care Powers of Attorney are documents by which the maker, the Principal, designates one or more individuals to make decisions for him or herself in the event of incapacity. These documents empower the Agent to make a variety of day-to-day decisions about the healthcare of the Principal (like choice of facilities or consent to minor medical procedures), as well as decisions about withholding or withdrawing life sustaining treatment.
While not traditionally a part of the estate planning documents completed by a lawyer, beneficiary designations are often extremely important parts of an estate plan. Because, for many Americans, a sizeable portion of their estate will pass through such instruments, ensuring that the beneficiary designations are properly completed and updated in accordance with a will or revocable trust is a crucial part of thorough estate planning.
As life moves online, estate planning is increasingly concerned with planning for digital assets. Many online accounts, such as those associated with commercial ventures, have significant monetary value. Those that do not often have great sentimental value. Proper estate planning in the digital age entails making arrangements for these types of assets.