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Death and Finances: In the Event

January 20, 2023

There are two things you can count on in life: death and taxes. Though no one likes to think of either, each are inevitable.

As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, I ask my clients whether they have an estate plan or recently met with an estate attorney. Unfortunately, many people delay meeting with an estate attorney until it is too late. Having an estate plan is important, particularly when blended families, multiple properties, family-owned businesses, and accumulated wealth are concerned.

The estate planning process is facilitated by an estate attorney who will ask questions to determine what you want to happen in the event  you become incapacitated or die . An estate plan will be created and may include documents like a will, healthcare power of attorney, and power of attorney. Sometimes, an estate plan may include a trust. It is important to consult with an estate attorney to receive legal advice that applies to your situation.

What do you do with these documents once you have them? Please do not store them in a safe deposit box. Why? In the event of an emergency, if you own the safe deposit box, only you can access it.  If you are incapacitated, no one can access these documents. In the event of your death, a person must be appointed as administrator or executor prior to initiating a will search. Instead, consider keeping the documents in a fire-proof safe at home. Make sure that someone you trust knows where to find these documents. Store digital copies or photo images in a secure cloud-based and encrypted vault.

In the event of death, the probate process begins. The probate process, as defined by the American Bar Association, “is the formal legal process that gives recognition to a will and appoints the executor or personal representative who will administer the estate and distribute assets to the intended beneficiaries.”

The North Carolina Judicial Branch website offers guidance in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section: “How does a person begin the estate administration process?” Find the will, obtain an official death certificate, locate and identify assets, then contact the Clerk of Court.

If the death occurs in Haywood County, call the Clerk of Court line at (828) 454-6501. Choose option 4, then option 1 for Estates, Wills and Guardianships. You will be prompted to leave a message. Provide your name, phone number, the name of the person who passed away, the date of death, and ask for a return call to schedule an appointment to discuss the probate process. 

If you would like a recommendation for an estate attorney, ask your CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ or tax professional.

Wendolyn Forbes is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ with Wealth Transition Finance, A Member of Advisory Services Network, LLC, where she offers financial planning and investment management services for either a one-time or on-going cost. For more information, visit

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and federally registered CFP® (with flame design) in the US, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements.

This material is provided as a courtesy and for educational purposes only.  Advisory Services Network, LLC does not provide tax advice.  The tax information contained herein is general and is not exhaustive by nature.  Federal and state laws are complex and constantly changing.  Consult your own legal or tax professional for information concerning your individual situation.

Originally published in the January/February 2023 issue of Positively Haywood by Vicinitus, available here.