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Salisbury North Carolina Legal Blog

The frightening facts surrounding distracted driving

Every time you drive across town, you probably pass dozens, if not hundreds, of distracted drivers. It's an epidemic. A lot of people who know full well that distractions are dangerous still let themselves get distracted almost every single time they get in the car.

After all, distractions take many forms. Some drivers text while they drive. Others listen to music that's too loud. Others gawk at accidents. Still others try to talk to passengers or deal with kids in the car.

Can North Carolina spouses be disinherited?

Each state, including North Carolina, has laws regarding the inheritance of property. In most states, the law may permit a surviving spouse to inherit a portion of their deceased spouse's estate, even if the deceased tried to disinherit them in their will. North Carolina follows the common law approach to this estate administration and litigation topic.

In common law states, such as North Carolina, it is not mandated by law that a spouse retain a one-half interest in all marital assets. Instead, which spouse owns an asset depends on whose name is on the title of the asset or on which spouse's income was used to buy the asset. However, even in common law states, surviving spouses generally cannot be completely disinherited. Most common law states permit the surviving spouse to inherit a certain percentage of their deceased spouse's estate.

Why estate planning is so important

Planning for one's death may be a morbid concept to some. However, since most people in North Carolina do have some opinions on how they want their assets passed on and what kind of end-of-life care they want, it is important to document these wishes in an estate plan. In fact, the failure to execute a will, trust, power of attorney or living will could result in an outcome that a person might find highly undesirable.

First, it is important to understand that, without a will or trust in place, the state will determine who is to inherit your assets. State intestacy laws will dictate how a person's assets will be distributed upon their death. This could mean that a person you might not want to receive an inheritance will be granted some or all of your estate. In addition, without an estate plan, a person's assets will enter probate, which is a lengthy and expensive process.

When can holiday shopping lead to a personal injury claim?

As Christmas looms close, shoppers in North Carolina are taking advantage of these final days to finish their holiday shopping. Stores are often packed with patrons in search of the perfect gift. It is only natural that these patrons do not expect to be injured while shopping, but shopping injuries are a significant danger this time of year.

For example, a store's floors may be slippery with melted ice or snow. If wet floors are not mopped up or barricaded off, a patron could suffer a slip-and-fall injury. Torn carpeting or broken handrails on stairways can also cause a person to fall and become injured. If a towering display of merchandise collapses, items could strike a shopper on the head, injuring them. And, if stores do not take proper crowd-control measures, trampling injuries could even occur.

Can breach of contract lead to general civil litigation?

Contracts form the backbone of commerce in North Carolina and across the nation. From contracts between commercial property owners and builders to contracts between suppliers and manufacturers or even complex contracts involving other aspects of business, such as corporate mergers, entering into contracts is a common business practice.

Therefore, if one party claims the contract has been breached, it can have significant consequences to both sides of the agreement. Both parties may have different opinions about how the contract should be interpreted, and the party claiming breach may want to enforce the contract and be made whole again, while the party accused of breach will want to avoid having to pay the financial consequences that come when a contract is broken. Breach of contract can even lead to general civil litigation. Therefore, it is important to understand how a contract is formed and how it can be breached.

Sentimental items: A key element in estate planning

Don't forget the little things when doing your estate planning. Those little items may prove far more important in the end than your major assets.

After all, you can add items with sentimental value to your will and your estate plan. These could include old photographs, artwork and family heirlooms like a wedding dress or a ring. These items may have been passed down for generations, or they may just be things that you are leaving to your own children.

We assist those with estate administration and litigation needs

There are many phases of the estate administration process in North Carolina. The estate must be opened, and if there is a will, it must be located. All the deceased's assets must be inventoried. The deceased's creditors need to be notified of the death, and debts must be paid out of estate assets. Life insurance claims must be submitted. Income tax returns must be filed. Finally, the deceased's assets must be distributed per the terms of the deceased's will.

However, if you are chosen to administer a loved one's estate, you may be so wrapped up in making funeral arrangements, clearing out your loved one's home and going through the grieving process, that it is easy to overlook one of these steps. But, such an oversight can be costly, both in time and money. Moreover, disputes can arise between heirs that further complicate the estate administration process. Thus, some people choose to seek legal help when it comes to estate administration and litigation.

Negligence may form the basis of a personal injury lawsuit

Perhaps you were injured in a car crash caused by a drunk driver. Or, maybe you slipped on a wet floor in a grocery store, causing an injury. Or, perhaps your doctor made a misdiagnosis leading to a worsened condition. In any of these cases, a person's injuries -- and the costs associated with these injuries -- can be significant. When that happens, a person in North Carolina may choose to pursue a personal injury case based on negligence.

In general, the following elements must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence in a negligence lawsuit. First, it must be shown that the plaintiff was owed a duty of care by the defendant. Then, it must be shown that the defendant breached their duty of care. The breach must have been the cause of the plaintiff's injuries, that is, but for the breach, the plaintiff would not have been injured. The defendant's breach must also be the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries. This means that the defendant should have known that the acts they committed could have the potential to cause others to be injured. Finally, there must be actual damages, such as medical expenses or loss of income.

Personal injury victims in North Carolina may need an advocate

Sometimes it is true that accidents happen. Unfortunately, many times a person's injury boils down to the negligence of another. For example, a person in Salisbury could be injured in a car crash. Or, a person could suffer an injury after slipping on a wet floor in a store. Broken bones, traumatic head injuries or spinal cord injuries are only some examples of how a person can be hurt in an accident. In the worst of cases, a person could die due to the negligent acts of another.

When any of these scenarios happens, the damages the victim suffers could be extensive. Of course, they could be seriously injured. However, there may also be property damage, medical bills, lost wages, mental anguish and more. Even trying to deal with insurance adjusters can be difficult. Ultimately, it can be overwhelming to try to seek compensation on your own.

Does the lack of an estate plan always spell out disaster?

Many people in North Carolina may already know that there are many benefits to estate planning. With a comprehensive estate plan, a person can pass on their assets through a will or trust, can select individuals to make decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated and can detail what kind of end-of-life care they want. However, does the lack of a will or trust always spell out disaster?

Take, for example, the death of music legend, Aretha Franklin. Franklin died without a will or trust. She had no living spouse but was survived by several adult children. This meant per the laws of intestate succession in the state she resided in, her estate will be split equally between her children after taxes are paid and obligations to creditors are satisfied.

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Kluttz Reamer

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Kluttz, Reamer, Hayes, Adkins & Carter, L.L.P.
129 North Main Street
Salisbury, NC 28144

Phone: 704-216-4012
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