Effect of Separation and Divorce on Estate Planning in NC

If you and your spouse are separated or you have recently divorced, this blog will summarize the relevant North Carolina statutes.         Separation and Estate Planning A separation alone has no legal effect on your estate plan.  If you and your spouse have executed a separation agreement, it will likely have reciprocal renunciations of statutory spousal rights such as the Year’s Allowance, Intestate Succession, and the Elective Share.  These spousal rights exist regardless of whether your Will or Trust includes your spouse. As my Wills and Trusts professor always said, “you can’t disinherit your spouse in North Carolina.”  Without a … Continue reading

Association Not Liable for Volunteer’s Actions in Pool Incident

In a recent case heard by the Illinois Court of Appeals, Muhs v. Fox Point Homeowners Association (the “Association”), the Appellate Court of Illinois ruled in favor of a homeowners association, stating that the association was not liable for the actions of a volunteer committee member. Doreen Colletti Muhs (the “Homeowner”) sued Fox Point Homeowners Association (the “Association”) and Stacy Boyum for injuries she sustained during a party on Fox Point’s premises when Boyum knocked the Homeowner to the ground while trying to encourage her and other party guests to jump into the pool.  Boyum was one of three volunteers … Continue reading

Association Common Area Can Be Foreclosed and Sold to a Third Party for Unpaid Property Tax

Our office has had two situations in the last six months where an association failed to pay property taxes on association common area, the tax department foreclosed, and a third-party bought the common area at the tax foreclosure sale. Fortunately in these cases it was not the association pool or clubhouse, but it could have been. For North Carolina associations – There is a statue in North Carolina that allows associations to apply for a tax exempt status for common area. Once approved the association does not owe property taxes on that common area going forward. The key is to make … Continue reading

Taylor Swift and Robert’s Rules?

What do Taylor Swift and Robert’s Rules of Order have in common? Likely not much. However, both were highlighted in the “Top Ten 2023 Outlook Stories” from The Presbyterian Outlook, the magazine of the Presbyterian Church (USA). “What Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour Taught Me about Church” made the list. So did “Who Was Robert and Why Do His Rules Rule?” If you’re curious, the list and full articles can be found at Top 10 Outlook Stories of 2023. Want to learn more about Robert’s Rules of Order and proper meeting procedure? Then check out my two most recent books! Both … Continue reading

HOA/Condo Op-Ed Article Published Today

I was asked by The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer to respond to recent reporting looking at changing North Carolina’s HOA/condo laws. My article, “Caution: When NC HOA Laws Change, Property Values and More Are at Stake,” appears in both newspapers today. If you are a subscriber, links to both are below and the full op-ed follows. Caution: When NC HOA Laws Change, Property Values and More Are at Stake Living in a community where owners agree to abide by rules that enhance benefits for everyone requires  balancing individual rights with neighbors. Legislators have historically balanced those effectively. Substantially increasing … Continue reading

What Is a Variance?

Last year I wrote a blog discussing the role of a Board of Adjustment and the types of cases they may hear, which can be found here. One of the land use cases that the Board of Adjustment in a municipality would see regularly would be a request for a variance. Variances are covered under NCGS § 160D of the North Carolina General Statues.  Specifically: NCGS 160D-705(d) states: When unnecessary hardships would result from carrying out the strict letter of a zoning regulation, the board of adjustment shall vary any of the provisions of the zoning regulation upon a showing … Continue reading

Harmony Taylor Recognition

Law Firm Carolinas’ partner Harmony Taylor is on a roll! Harmony has been named a Fellow in CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers. The College, which was created in 1994, recognizes excellence in the practice of community association law. Of the thousands of attorneys who work with homeowner and condominium associations in the US, there are fewer than 200 current CCAL Fellows. As a past national CCAL President, I can say without reservation that Harmony reflects the high standards of professionalism, professional involvement, and passion for community association law the CCAL designation was created to spotlight.​ Harmony has also been elected Chair of … Continue reading

Timing at Closing for Signing and Funding of Transaction

Closings in olden times (over 10 years ago and prior) was most typically that parties, buyers, sellers, agents, etc., would all attend a signing at a single scheduled date and time.  In more recent years, and in the future I suspect, the needs and requests of parties have varied quite a bit more.  Parties are remote, parties want to come to sign on separate days or times and this is most easily facilitated by Law Firm Carolinas in part or whole due to our experience in handling transactions throughout the entireties of North and South Carolina even in locations where … Continue reading

2024 Gift, Estate and Generation-Skipping Tax Exclusions

The unified lifetime general gift and estate exclusion, the generation-skipping gift and estate tax exclusion, and the annual gift tax exclusion are typically adjusted annually for inflation.   On November 9, 2023, the IRS announced an increased exclusion for all three which will become effective on January 1, 2024. The annual gift tax exclusion will increase from $17,000 to $18,000 in 2024.  This is the amount one can gift to a recipient during the year without filing a gift tax return and, therefore, without using any of their unified gift and estate tax exclusion.  With gift splitting, married couples will be … Continue reading

Understanding Emergency Ex Parte Child Custody Claims

Child custody matters can be complex and emotionally charged. In some situations, immediate action may be required to protect the best interests of a child. When faced with emergencies, a legal avenue available to parents or guardians in North Carolina is the Emergency Ex Parte Child Custody Claim. What is an emergency ex parte child custody claim, when it can be filed, and how does the process work to help you understand your legal rights and options? What Is an Emergency Ex Parte Child Custody Claim? An Emergency Ex Parte Child Custody Claim is a legal request made to the … Continue reading

Freddie Mac Announced Increased Transparency for Condo Projects

Freddie Mac announced yesterday, December 6, 2023, that it would be implementing steps to increase transparency in condominium project certification and eligibility for loans. See the link to Freddie Mac’s announcement. Up to now, industry leaders have voiced concerns about the secretive nature of Freddie Mac’s determination of a condominium’s eligibility status—contending that its unavailable list of condominiums amounted to a secret blacklist. For prospective home buyers wanting to buy in a condominium, this has meant that there was less access to mortgages, sometimes causing serious problems because existing condominium owners, boards of directors, and community managers didn’t know that … Continue reading

Holiday Parties and Employer Liability

For many North Carolina and South Carolina businesses, the annual holiday party provides a festive, valuable opportunity to express their gratitude, reward company loyalty, and bolster goodwill amongst employees and, potentially, key customers, clients, and vendors. But with such an opportunity also comes potential downfalls or opportunities for employers to incur unwanted or intended liability.     So how can a wise employer capitalize on the positives of holiday gatherings without becoming a Scrooge? By focusing on how and where liability may arise and planning for your festivities just as thoughtfully and strategically as you would when handling other business opportunities. … Continue reading

Adoption Is Great . . . Except for Some

Adoption, for most people, is a time of celebration.  A time to welcome a child into their home and a time to expand their family.  It is a wonderful avenue to establish and solidify rights to a child outside of a child custody proceeding.  But what happens if a biological father, who would have wanted the child, did not know of a child’s existence prior to an adoption proceeding?  The answer is, as it is in most cases, it depends. North Carolina adoption statutes set out the mechanism regarding how adoptions take place, who can adopt, and most importantly, whose … Continue reading

New Release: AIP Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, SECOND Edition

If your organization follows The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure (often referred to as “Sturgis”), or the AIP Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, or you simply want to learn more about parliamentary practices at meetings, there’s a new book to check out: the American Institute of Parliamentarians Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, Second Edition. Stay with me here for some necessary background– Originally by Alice Sturgis, The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure was first released in 1950 as a simpler alternative to the Robert’s Rules of Order of its time. The Standard Code had fewer motions, updated archaic terms, modernized … Continue reading

Ground Leases- A New (?) Path to Home Ownership

Within the last several months, community association attorneys in North Carolina have begun to see a new scenario with their clients: the ground lease.  Usually, when someone purchases a lot, they own the lot and any structures on that lot, such as a home, outbuildings, or landscaping installations. However, we are now seeing situations where someone purchases a lot, but only leases the home and other structures on the lot (the “Improvements”) for some long period with an option to buy at the end.  The duration of these leases is variable, but often extends to periods as long as 99 … Continue reading

Asset Protection in North Carolina (Part 2)

One of the primary strategies for protecting real estate for long-term care and Medicaid purposes involves a special kind of deed converting the real estate to a non-countable asset while also making it non-recoverable from the Medicaid estate recovery laws.  Although generally used for Medicaid planning, I often inform clients that, in the event they never need long-term care or to apply for Medicaid, the deed provides a multitude of other benefits including general asset protection and probate avoidance. While changing the character of real estate ownership does not exempt the property from the claims of creditors, it can make … Continue reading

Asset Protection in North Carolina (Part 1)

I strive to write blogs that hit on the most frequent areas my clients inquire about in the first meeting. One of the most common, if not the most common, comments from clients in the first meeting is “we just want make sure things are protected”, “how can I protect what I have?”,  or something along those general lines. These are, of course, very general comments so the natural next step is to find out exactly what the client means in order to begin formulating specific estate planning goals. In prior blogs, I have focused on long-term care expenses as … Continue reading

Why Would You Need an Owner’s Title Insurance policy when buying a home?

And is it necessary? The home buying process can be a confusing and hectic experience, with some of the most complex decisions you might ever have to make in your lifetime. One of those decisions may be the choice of whether to purchase an owner’s title insurance policy. Click here for more information about the basics of title insurance. If you’re buying a house with a mortgage, the lender you choose will always require the purchase of a lender’s policy as a condition for the loan, but why would a homeowner also need their own policy? You might ask, if … Continue reading

What’s the Deal with Death Taxes?

In my experience, one of the initial questions from clients is what can I do to minimize estate taxes? In many cases, clients initially express an interest in creating a trust based on the notion that it is needed to minimize taxes. While there are many types of advanced planning trusts which are intended to remove assets or appreciation from a person’s taxable estate, the benefits of a standard revocable living trusts commonly used in estate planning typically does not include avoidance of estate taxes because any assets transferred to a revocable living trust remain in the settlor’s (the person … Continue reading

What Is a Reserve Study and Why Is It Important for My Association?

Community associations play a crucial role in maintaining the quality of life and property values. They oversee a wide range of responsibilities, from maintaining common areas to enforcing community rules and regulations. One often underappreciated but critical aspect of appropriate association management is long-term financial planning. One of the most valuable tools for ensuring a sound financial future for your association is the reserve study. In this article, we will discuss why community associations in North Carolina should prioritize conducting regular reserve studies, and what role the community’s attorney plays in that process. The Importance of Financial Planning for Community … Continue reading