By Mavis Gragg, Founder at The Gragg Law Firm, PLLC
Have you delayed in addressing the legal needs of taking care of yourself and your land? Perhaps it feels overwhelming emotionally or financially. Or maybe you don’t know where to start because there is so much to do. Regardless of why you have not taken steps to resolve the legal needs to take care of you and your land, there are small things you can do that can have a big impact towards addressing the legal needs. Take a look at the micromovements I suggest below and try them out. Remember, you only have to do one at a time.
Beneficiaries on accounts:
If you have bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, brokerage accounts, and any other type of financial account, prevent these from going to creditors by listing beneficiaries to those accounts. Micromovements:
- List all financial accounts you have.
- List the people and organizations who will receive the accounts in order of preference.
- Update a beneficiary for one financial account. (Repeat until you have completed this for all of your financial accounts.)
Will, Powers of Attorney and the like:
Having these documents can have a big difference in your ability to make decisions for yourself and to take care of your loved ones. Micromovements:
- Make a list of people in charge.
- Agent in financial and healthcare powers of attorney
- Executor to settle your affairs when you die.
- Guardian for minor children
- Trustee to manage assets on behalf of your minor children.
- Make a list of people you want to inherit your stuff.
- Make a budget for legal fees.
- Contact three estate planning attorneys.
- Determine what you can afford and if you need a payment plan.
Family land matters are complex and often overwhelming. Make some small actions that contribute to stabilization. Micromovements:
- Make a decision about your own share. Transfer to a co-owner? Instruct in your will to sell or transfer to co-owner or one relative
- Make an asset map (visual inventory) of the resources available for your family land. This should include Roanoke Electric, attorneys, the local NRCS office and others.
- Create or update your family tree. This will help the attorney helping your family tremendously and save a lot of money. Attorneys rely heavily on your family tree to confirm who the current legal owners are. They should be able to trace the tree from the last family members on the deed to the most recent generation. Include the date of death and county of death for every person who is deceased.
- Research genealogists. Number 3 can be done by genealogist you help find.
I will be leading a breakout session on these and other aspects of estate planning during the North Carolina & Virginia Forest Landowner Conference that will be held July 18-19 in Weldon, N.C. If you are able to attend, I look forward to seeing you there.