North Carolina Law Blog

Talking to family about estate planning

Talking about estate planning can be hard for families in North Carolina, but it is important to do so before a health crisis occurs. Parents can start early, discussing their values and how to manage money with their children when they are young.

Some people may want to consider whether a trust is the right choice for their family. Many people think of trusts as being only something that is helpful for the wealthy, but these versatile vehicles can perform many functions in different family situations. Whatever people choose as an estate plan, communication with family members is important. This might be facilitated by a third-party professional who can help talk to family members about their options.

Racial disparity in state prisons slowly decreasing

Black people in North Carolina and across the United States are much more likely to be incarcerated than white people, according to a new study. However, the report, which was released on Dec. 3, also found that racial disparities have decreased over the past 16 years.

Researchers at the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice found that black individuals were approximately five times more likely than white individuals to be sentenced to state prison for drug crimes in 2016. In comparison, black people were 15 times more likely to be imprisoned for drug offenses in 2000. The researchers also found that black men outnumbered white men in state prisons by a six-to-one ratio in 2016, which is a drop from the nine-to-one disparity that was present in 2000. Meanwhile, black women outnumbered white women in state prisons by a two-to-one margin in 2016. The disparity was six-to-one back in 2000.

7 things you should know about child custody

Child custody cases often become confusing and even contentious. After your spouse files for divorce, you may find that both of you just want time with the kids. Yes, property division is important, but not as important as your children. As such, you feel like you and your ex end up working against each other.

To make this go smoothly, you want to learn as much as possible about the law in North Carolina. Here are seven important things you should know.

  1. The court cannot assume that a father or a mother will make a better parent based on their gender alone. They both have an equal claim to time with the children.
  2. The goal, for the court, is to promote the best interests of the child. If the parents do not get what they want, that is all right. It's a secondary concern. The court has to put the kids first.
  3. When determining that one parent will not get custody or visitation rights, the court has to do so because it is not in the best interests of the child or because that parent is unfit. Otherwise, parents should generally get at least visitation rights.
  4. Visitation and custody are closely linked. The court considers visitation rights to be "a lesser form of custody."
  5. When setting up a visitation plan, the court order should address the specifics. It does not just say that one parent has a right to see the children and then leave it for the family to figure out. It will say when they get to have visitation, where it should happen and how it should happen. Any other conditions should also get included.
  6. Legal custody addresses things like religion, education and medical care. It is not about where the child lives, but about making important decisions on the child's behalf. Parents can share legal custody and must then work together on these decisions.
  7. If either parent asks for joint custody, then the court has to consider it. This is true in every case. That does not mean that the court can't deny it after consideration. But they must at least look into it. Even if the other parent immediately argues that joint custody is against the child's best interests, for instance, the court still has to consider it and make a determination.

Your cold medicine could result in a DWI

You had to see your doctor because of your cold. It just wasn't getting any better. You went through the exam and were told to take some medications.

Of the medicines you were given, a few are known to cause drowsiness. Some might make you tired to help you sleep off the cold, for example. That's great for your health, but it's not as good for driving.

Why trucking accidents occur

When large trucks collide with smaller passenger vehicles, the later usually gets the brunt of the damage. This makes sense considering that passenger vehicles usually weigh around 4,000 pounds and 18-wheelers weigh around 80,000 pounds. North Carolina residents may be interested in learning some of the most prevalent causes behind these accidents.

Driver error is the No. 1 reason why trucking accidents happen. However, it is more common for the driver of a passenger vehicle to be at fault than the trucker. One study revealed that over 80% of accidents involving passenger vehicles and 18-wheelers were the fault of the passenger vehicle drivers. Truckers may be able to reduce these accidents by improving their defensive driving skills and keeping a safe distance from other vehicles.

Yes, you can challenge your DWI arrest

Ah, the holidays. The final months of the year are a time of joy and remembrance as families and friends gather to celebrate and break bread together. Regardless of your own cultural or faith traditions, there is something about the long, cold nights of winter that hearkens back to ancient times when our early ancestors hunkered around burning fires to share a cup of grog and tell their stories.

While we are many generations away from those cave-dwellers, we have retained some of their traditions, including raising a cup of cheer to celebrate the bonhomie of the season.

Health care estate planning tools for the young

College students in North Carolina and around the country may feel that they have little need to worry about estate planning, but this type of thinking can cause real problems in an emergency situation. While young people are unlikely to have accumulated enough assets to concern themselves with wills or trusts, other estate planning tools like health care authorizations and powers of attorney could be extremely valuable even to those who still have decades of life ahead of them.

Many college students are covered by their parents' health insurance policies, but that does not mean their loved ones will be able to step in and help out in an emergency. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act prevents health care providers from sharing information even with parents, but this situation can be remedied by drafting a HIPAA authorization. This document authorizes hospitals and doctors to allow the person listed on the document to receive and use medical information.

Do these things if you’re pulled over for suspicion of DWI

Police officers are well trained at spotting individuals who are under the influence of alcohol, as it allows them to keep dangerous drivers off the road. If you're pulled over for suspicion of DWI, the steps you take will go a long way in determining what happens next.

Here's what you need to do:

  • Pull to safety as quickly as possible: Once you're sure the officer is after you, put on your hazard lights, slow down and move to the side of the road or a parking lot.
  • Maintain a high level of politeness: There's no benefit of being rude or disrespectful to the officer, even if you're 100 percent sober. Keep calm, remain polite and do whatever you can to move through the conversation in an efficient manner.
  • Don't say too much: Think long and hard before you answer a question or share too much information with the officer. The 5th Amendment provides the right to remain silent, as opposed to incriminating yourself.
  • Don't concoct a story: Telling the officer you only had one drink six hours ago won't do you any good. Even if it's true, they won't believe it. You're best off sticking with the facts, as most officers have heard every story in the book.
  • Keep your cool if you're put under arrest: You may not see it coming, but if the officer puts you under arrest you should remain quiet and follow procedure. Fighting back, verbally and/or in a physical manner, increases the risk of additional criminal charges, such as resisting arrest.

Put together an estate plan for peace of mind

As you get older, the number of assets you retain may grow and your family may, too. Everything may be falling into place, and you feel that you have all that you need.

Now, imagine that you were to suddenly pass away or become impaired. How would you want to be cared for? How would you want to divide your assets among your family members?

Protecting finances before the impact of a divorce

When people are questioning whether or not to divorce their spouse in North Carolina, their immediate efforts to gain some control over their financial situation is imperative to their ability to reduce the impact of their divorce on the stability of their finances. This type of control does not mean one person trying to take over, but rather each individual's recognition of their financial standing and individual ways they can prepare for the consequences that divorce will create for their financial situation. 

One way that people can prepare to get divorced is by making a detailed list of all of the financial assets they have and are currently sharing with their spouse. This cumulative list should include information about debts, income, taxes, assets and liabilities. If possible, in situations where communication is still an option, couples should establish a decided upon date for their separation. This date will play a critical role in financial decisions that will need to be made in the coming months.

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