Estate Planning

estate-planning-imageEstate planning involves structuring your affairs in order to minimize estate and transfer taxes while passing your assets to your family and loved ones consistent with your personal preferences. Because these two objectives often conflict, you need an experienced estate planning lawyer to help you to strike the balance necessary to meet of your objectives.  This is the kind of help that attorney Louis Wooten and The Wooten Law Firm in Raleigh can provide. Based on Louis’ 20-plus years of estate planning experience, he can help you make well-informed and careful decisions to ensure your heirs receive your assets with minimum tax liability.

While many estate planning lawyers avoid handling smaller estates, we at The Wooten Law Firm enjoy working with these clients every bit as much as we enjoy working with larger estates. Big or small, every family’s needs are important and we pride ourselves in working with estates of all sizes because at the Wooten Law Firm, client satisfaction is our top priority.

Louis Wooten can help you achieve your goals and give you the peace of mind that comes with an effective and secure plan for the future. Whether your estate is large or small, The Wooten Law Firm has the skill and experience necessary to help you with all of your estate planning needs.

Wills, Trusts and Powers of Attorney

Everyone deserves the comfort of knowing that their intentions for the distribution of family assets will be carried out according to their wishes when they die. With proper estate planning, the majority of married couples can be assured their plans will be followed and that their heirs will avoid estate taxes entirely.

The Wooten Law Firm can address most estate tax issues using relatively simple, tried-and-true techniques. The will and the trust are the cornerstone of any estate plan.

  • A will sets forth the basic instructions for the disposition of assets at death. It identifies the individuals or institutions that will receive or administer your assets after your death. The will can also nominate individuals to serve as guardian of any minor children who survive you.
  • A living will ensures your family has clear guidance on health care issues and, should you become incapacitated, can make decisions on your behalf knowing that they are following your wishes.
  • A living trust in conjunction with a will helps to avoid probate and protect your privacy. A living trust allows you to remain in charge of your assets and benefit from them, but it also establishes a trustee to take over if you become incapacitated or die. Because the trustee owns your assets at the time of your death, most of your assets avoid probate.  In addition, if you own real estate outside North Carolina, a living trust can also help avoid costly ancillary probate proceedings in those states where you own real estate.
  • A power of attorney addresses the consequences of an individual becoming mentally or physically unable to handle his or her affairs. In this situation, it is important that you have a plan in place that transfers control of your assets to individuals or institutions that you know and trust so that they can act on your behalf and without court intervention.

Estate Tax Strategies

When estate tax issues require more sophisticated techniques to accomplish our clients’ tax objectives, we can recommend a variety of estate tax savings technics. Whether it is effectuating an estate tax freeze through a “zeroed out” grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT) or taking advantage of gifting discounts by making gifts through a family limited liability company (LLC), we have the knowledge and experience necessary to plan for larger estates with more sophisticated tax planning needs.

Some of the options available, depending upon the nature and extent of your assets, include:

  • Intra-family loans.
  • Inter-vivos qualified terminable interest property (QTIP) trusts.
  • Grantor retained annuity trusts (GRAT).
  • Qualified personal residence trusts (QPRT).
  • Private annuities.
  • Irrevocable life insurance trusts.
  • Family limited liability companies (LLC).
  • Installment sales to defective grantor trusts.
  • Generation-skipping transfer tax planning.
  • Self-cancelling installment notes.
  • Annual gifting programs.

Charitable Giving

Whether it is your college, your church or an organization that advances a worthy cause, there are many ways you can make gifts to charities either during life or at death. All gifts, however, are not the same.

There are many types of gifts that permit you to help the organizations that are important to you while maximizing the tax benefit that arises from your charitable contribution. For instance, some gifts allow you to take a current charitable deduction now while at the same time retaining an income stream from the property gifted.  Other gifts allow the opposite: you give (and deduct the value of) an income stream to the charity now, but once the last payment is made to the charity you get your property back.

In addition, it is important that you give the “right” property to the charity.  For example, gifts of highly appreciated assets to charity (as opposed to cash) are usually more tax efficient because the charity, a tax exempt entity, can sell the property and not pay any income taxes on the built-in appreciation It is important that you consult with an experienced tax and estate planning attorney like Louis Wooten of The Wooten Law Firm prior to making any major gift to charity to ensure that you take advantage of all the tax benefits available under the law.

Family Disputes and Issues

Sometimes an estate plan causes conflict among beneficiaries or those who feel that they should have been included as beneficiaries. For example, divorce and remarriage can complicate the division of your assets.  The spouse from your second marriage may not be as inclined to share with your children from your first marriage the same way the child’s biological parent, your former spouse, would have had you remained married to the child’s biological parent and your assets passed to him or her at your death. If you have children from one or more marriages, we can help you establish college funds and/or trusts, nominate guardians to care for minor children in the event of your death, and otherwise ensure that you both provide for your current spouse’s needs after your death while at the same time ensuring that your children ultimately inherit your assets. A well-designed plan can implement your wishes by clearly establishing the manner in which your assets are to be divided.

Business Succession Planning

Only about 30% of all family businesses are successfully transferred from one generation to the next, and only about 12% make it through a second generational transfer.  If you own a family business, we can help you make concrete plans to ensure that your business will continue after your retirement or death. Whether you want to pass it on to one or more of your children or sell it to senior management or a third party purchaser, we can work with you to devise a strategy that is right for you.

Without proper planning, that business that you worked so hard to build could disappear in a few short years after your death, all to the detriment of your family and employees who have served you so well for so many years.  The Wooten Law Firm has the business planning and development experience to review your needs and goals for the future of your business and work with you to create a solid succession plan that ensures your business’ success for years to come.

Consult a Raleigh Estate Planning Lawyer for Free

At The Wooten Law Firm, we believe that choosing an estate planning lawyer is a highly personal decision. Upon request, we offer a free 30-minute consultation to review your needs and discuss our thoughts about your estate. If you hire us, we can provide flat-fee pricing for the services we provide. Complete our online confidential questionnaire and we will contact you to schedule a free consultation.

With two decades of estate planning experience for Raleigh-area families, Louis Wooten has earned a reputation as an approachable adviser who understands what’s necessary to achieve practical results. He has received an AV Rating by Martindale-Hubble®, the highest rating given by the oldest and most trusted lawyer rating service in the United States. He is a skilled and seasoned lawyer who will work with you to create an estate and business succession plan that best achieves your overall objectives for your family while remaining sensitive to the needs of everyone involved.

Put Louis Wooten’s insight and experience to work for you and your estate planning needs. Call The Wooten Law Firm at 919-573-6118 in Raleigh or contact us through the form on this page to set up a free initial consultation.