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Estate Planning Attorneys in
Concord, North Carolina

If you are young and relatively healthy, you may think that you don’t need an estate plan. However, drafting an estate plan is a wise step if you have any assets that you wish to grant to specific people after your death—and it is especially important if you have children. To discuss your options and begin drafting an estate plan in North Carolina, call us at Ferguson Hayes Hawkins, PLLC in Concord.  

Why Estate Planning Is Important  

Estate planning—or the process of legally stating your wishes for the disposition of your estate and the care of dependents after death—can be a daunting prospect, but a skilled estate planning attorney can assist you at every step. Even if you do not feel that you need an estate plan, it’s important to understand that if you die intestate (or without a will), the state will decide many matters—including who receives the assets in your estate and who is appointed as guardians for minor children—for you. Estate planning is essential if you want to make sure that important assets get passed to certain people, or if you want to legally name a guardian for your child in the event of your death.  

Your attorney can assist you in many ways, including but not limited to the following: 

  1. They can make sure that all of your estate planning documents are legally enforceable.  

  1. Your attorney can help you draft a will or a trust and can perform trust administration services.  

  1. They can also provide probate administration assistance, both ensuring that your estate avoids probate when possible and helping your executors and beneficiaries through the court process. 

On that note, you may also want to speak to your attorney about ways to minimize the time that your estate spends in probate. Probate—or the process by which a will is reviewed in court and the executor of the will follows the will’s instructions for the division of assets—can be costly and time-consuming, potentially adding to the stress your family members will experience upon your death. One way to avoid probate is to establish a living trust. 

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Documents to Consider for Your Estate Plan  


When most people think of estate planning, they think of wills. Crucially, wills allow you to appoint guardians for minor children and appoint someone to manage their property before they turn 18. Wills also allow you to dispose of your property according to your own wishes. There are some exceptions to this; for example, many states—including North Carolina—have laws designed to protect a spouse from being actively disinherited in a will.  

In North Carolina, after providing your spouse with a necessary elective share of your estate (which differs according to the length of the marriage), you are free to leave your property to whomever you desire. This is important if you want to leave some property to someone who otherwise would not inherit if you died intestate, such as a stepchild. It is also important if you want another family member to receive more than what their elective share would be if you died intestate or if you want to leave some property to a charity or another organization. 

To create a will in North Carolina, you must be over 18 years of age and must have the mental capacity to make and understand your own decisions. You must name an executor who will carry out the instructions in the will. The will must be in writing (typed or printed) and signed by you and two witnesses, unless you are near death, in which case an oral will may be acceptable if you relay your wishes out loud to two witnesses. These witnesses must be disinterested, meaning that they are not due to inherit anything from your estate. In some cases, a holographic (handwritten and unwitnessed) will may be acceptable, but it is generally a poor substitute as holographic wills are easily contested.  

You do not have to notarize your will. However, if you create a self-proving affidavit, the affidavit must be signed by you and two witnesses and notarized. Making your will self-proving is wise, as it speeds up the probate process.  

You can redraft your will as many times as you wish, or you can make amendments called codicils that appear at the end of the will. However, the will’s instructions can become confusing if the will has too many codicils, so it may be safer to draft a new will. 


A trust, like a will, allows you to legally name beneficiaries to which to leave assets. However, assets placed in a trust avoid probate, meaning that your loved ones will receive their intended inheritance without having to spend time or money in a court proceeding. For this reason, trusts are usually more expensive to create than wills.   

There are two types of trusts: 

  • Revocable Trusts. Revocable trusts can be amended. One type of “revocable” trust is a living trust. You (as “trustor” or creator of the trust) can place assets into the trust and act as the trustee (similar in function to the executor of a will) while you are alive, also electing a successor trustee. Upon your death, the trust becomes irrevocable and your successor trustee begins to manage the trust’s assets and dispense them to the beneficiary. 

  • Irrevocable Trusts. Irrevocable trusts cannot be amended.  Any trust that is irrevocable (or has become irrevocable due to the trustor’s death) is usually protected from your creditors. 

Trusts allow you to manage your assets in a way that benefits your unique family situation. For example, if one of your intended heirs does not manage money very well, you can set up a “spendthrift” trust that doles out their inheritance in installments rather than in a lump sum.  

Some irrevocable trusts that may be useful include education trusts (or trusts designed to provide a beneficiary with money for higher education) or a special needs trust, which provides for medical expenses and care of a dependent. The assets in this trust are not counted for the purposes of qualifying for programs such as Medicaid. 

Advance Directives and Powers of Attorney 

An advance directive is a document that gives instructions for your medical and end-of-life care. These instructions ensure that your wishes are carried out even if you become incapacitated. One type of advance directive is a document called a living will, in which you will state your decisions for medical and end-of-life care. 

A health care power of attorney is another type of advance directive allowing you to choose a trusted person as a health care agent to make decisions for you should you become incapacitated.   

Having an advance directive is an important step to take if you have clear ideas about which medical treatments you would want to receive or decline in certain situations. For example, some people who are older and very ill state that they wish to deny life-prolonging measures if they are near death and if those measures would not prolong the quality of life.  

In order to create an advance directive, each document must be in written form and must be signed by you, witnessed by two people who are not your medical providers or relatives and who will not inherit anything from you upon your death, and notarized. You can cancel or modify a living will or advance health care directive orally by stating your intent to cancel to your medical provider and/or health care agent. You can then mail a Removal Form (available online) to the Secretary of State and make a new advance directive if you wish to modify it. You can only cancel a health care power of attorney when you have the capacity to make and state your decisions.  

Estate Planning Attorney in Concord, North Carolina 

At Ferguson Hayes Hawkins, PLLC, we know that every client’s situation is unique, which is why we pride ourselves on our attention to meeting our clients’ specific needs. Our attorneys Brian P. Hayes and Ryan C. Hawkins are here to help you make sure that your family is provided for and instructions for your medical care are followed. Call us today, serving Concord, North Carolina, and other areas in Rowan County, Stanly County, and Cabarrus County.