Lawyer | Waynesville, NC | Wenzel & Wenzel PLLC | 828-452-9099

Compassionate Representation

Get the knowledgeable assistance you need to draft your estate planning documents and administer estates.

Politically Correct Attorney Holiday Wishes :)
Friday, December 11, 2015

Please accept without obligation, explicit or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion or secular practice of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions.

Please also accept, under aforesaid waiver of obligation on your part, our best wishes for a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of this calendar year of the Common Era, but with due respect for the calendars of all cultures or sects, and for the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or dietary preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting you acknowledge that:

This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal at the wishor's discretion.

This greeting is freely transferable provided that no alteration shall be made to the original greeting and that the proprietary rights of the wishor are acknowledged.

This greeting implies no warranty on the part of the wishors to fulfill these wishes, nor any ability of the wishors to do so, merely a beneficent hope on the part of the wishors that they in fact occur.

This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain wishees in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wishors.

This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably may be expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.

The wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wishor.


2015 Estate Tax
Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The federal government has issued the numbers for 2015.

If you pass away in 2015, you can leave $5,430,000 free from the estate tax. This is an increase of $90,000 over 2014 (currently $5,340,000).

The annual gift tax exclusion remains at $14,000 for 2015 per donor per recipient, before the gift begins to reduce the amount you can pass at death.

As previously mentioned, North Carolina has repealed the state estate tax, so even if you pass away with more than $5 million, and you live in North Carolina, you will only have to worry about the federal estate tax. There is no state estate tax in North Carolina.

Website redesign
Monday, November 18, 2013

Please take a look at our website which we have redesigned. It still needs some work and more info but we believe it is an improvement and headed in the right direction!


10th Anniversary
Thursday, November 7, 2013

In October, our firm celebrated our 10th Anniversary!
Our early years were spent on a second floor office on Main Street in Waynesville, when we also had one other partner, Caleb Decker.
Since then, we moved to our new offices in 2006, and have become an established firm here in Waynesville, North Carolina, focusing solely on the practice areas of real estate, wills, trusts, probate, and estate administration.

Laura S. Bell also celebrated her 10 year anniversary with our firm, being with us from the beginning, when she answered phones, handled bookkeeping, and serve as the firm's sole paralegal. Now, she is the firm's senior paralegal assisting Sarah with probate and estate administration.

Sarah also has Tricia, who assist her with wills and estates.

We have a full time receptionist, Tiffany, who also handles some of the bookkeeping.

And, Derek has a full time primary paralegal, Pam Rogers, who assists him with closings, as well as part-time staff member Pam Starnes.

We are pleased to continue to serve our clients here in Waynesville, Haywood County, and Western North Carolina!


North Carolina Estate Tax Repealed
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

On July 23, 2013, the state of North Carolina repealed its estate tax, with an effective date of January 1, 2013.

Therefore, the only estate tax (death tax/inheritance tax) for North Carolinians remains the federal estate tax, which only applies for those estates above $5,250,000 for 2013 (with this amount being increased for inflation going forward). For a married couple, each spouse generally can use this amount, with the proper planning.


2013 and beyond.... The Estate Tax
Friday, January 4, 2013

Congress finally passed a bill preventing the formidable problem of the "fiscal cliff." And, in that bill, Congress dealt with the estate tax. As you may recall, we were scheduled to default back to a $1 million exemption with a rate of 55% for any amounts over the exemption.

However, with the passing of the bill, we now essentially have a continuation of the $5 million exemption, along with the inflationary adjustment. The inflationary adjustment in 2012 resulted in $5,120,000. We do not yet know the inflationary adjustment for 2013. But, we do now know that you can still generally pass a little over $5 million dollars tax free upon your death. While the tax rate for any amount over the $5 million exclusion was approximately 35% in 2012, that amount has been increased to a flat 40%.

Congress also adjusted the annual gift exclusion amount, which is adjusted from time to time for inflation. In 2013, you can now generally gift $14,000 per recipient without filing a gift tax return or decreasing the amount you can pass at your death.

Disclaimer: IRS Circular 230 Notice: Please be advised that this post should not be construed as tax advice. Many factors affect your personal situation. Any tax information contained in this blog or any postings (or in any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code.


Still no decision for estate taxes for 2013
Monday, December 10, 2012

Congress still has not been able to come to a compromise regarding the estate tax. The last time this happened was in December of 2010, regarding the estate tax for 2011. They finally reached a compromise on December 17, 2010. So, we still have time...

Here is a short article that is mostly correct in summarizing the issue:

More on IRA beneficiaries...
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Here is an article in a recent AARP bulletin.

It contains some basic helpful information regarding naming beneficiaries, as I have mentioned before. However, it does not get into the details. I suggest you talk with an attorney or your financial adviser more regarding these issues.


Staff Changes
Monday, October 29, 2012

In October 2012, Tricia Ponder moved from the real estate department to the estates department. She will be learning estates and assisting Sarah and Laura. Do not be surprised if she calls updating clients on the status of an estate or asking for information needed to serve you!

On the real estate side, the office has been very busy with closings this fall. Hopefully it means that the economy is starting to turn around! Pam Rogers is still our lead full time closing paralegal. Linda Correal is still with us part time, assisting with closings, and helping with title work and post closing documentation. Pam Starnes has recently joined us, working three days a week. So, we are working hard to serve our clients with the increase in closings!

Of course, Tiffany is still the first person most people see or talk to when calling the office!


Retitling Real Estate and Bank Accounts into Your Trust
Thursday, October 4, 2012

Many clients come to see me to update their trust, often from out of state, or with a trust drafted by another attorney. However, I find that they often have not completed the process of "funding" their trust.

When you set up a revocable or living trust, you are setting up a trust that exists during your lifetime. You may have done so for estate tax planning purposes, or perhaps to avoid probate.

However, if you do not actually change the title or ownership of your assets into the name of your trust, you are generally not avoiding probate. That means that if you pass away, someone will still have to open an estate at the courthouse and administer your estate (filing court documents, accountings, publishing a creditor's notice, etc.) in every state and county where you own real estate, and handle every bank account in your personal name through your probate estate.

So, please remember to make sure your attorney prepares and records a deed transferring the property from you to yourself as trustee of your trust. And, make sure to retitle your bank accounts to yourself as trustee of your trust.



Passing $5,120,000 Free of Estate Tax in 2012
Monday, September 17, 2012

I have received a lot of questions lately about how much a person can pass free from the estate tax when the person passes away. This is referred to as the estate tax exclusion amount. At the moment, it is $5,120,000. (The amount was adjusted for 2012.) However, the tax laws are set to default back to $1 million on January 1, 2013 (and at a greater tax rate for any amounts above that!). Generally, a married couple can double the amount that can be passed upon their deaths, if they have done the proper estate planning. This usually involves setting up a joint trust or separate trusts.

We will see what happens after the November election. No matter where you stand politically, we are hoping this issue will be resolved before the end of the year. In 2010, we were facing the same situation - defaulting back to $1 million on January 1, 2011, and Congress acted to amend the law through 2012. But they waited until December 17, 2010! So, I anticipate we will face a similar situation this year, with Congress acting sometime in December. Until then, we cannot be sure what amount a person can pass estate tax free.

- Sarah P. Wenzel


Needed: Estate Paralegal
Sunday, September 9, 2012

Experience required. Must have knowledge of wills, trusts, probate, court documents, and accounting.

Cover letter and resume: or fax 828-452-9059.


Real Estate Closing Staff
Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Please welcome several new staff members who have joined our real estate department in the past few months. As our practice grows, we believe in adding experienced staff to be able to continue to provide excellent customer service to our clients.

Pam Rogers joined our office in July, bringing over 16 years of real estate paralegal experience to our team.

And, most recently, Tricia Ponder joined our office in August, to assist in the real estate department, and also with the bookkeeping.

We hope you enjoy working with our new staff members. We feel that they bring experience and professionalism to add to our office and our ability to serve you, our clients.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.


New Staff
Monday, May 7, 2012

Please welcome Tiffany Hudson, who joined us in January as our receptionist. She brings experience assisting clients, and is your first connection with our office.

Edited 9/1/12.


Elective Share
Thursday, December 1, 2011

Most people are not aware that North Carolina enacted a newly revised elective share statute in 2009. This matters most for those in second marriages or those who wish not to leave everything to their spouses. Essentially, a surviving spouse can elect against a will and beneficiary designations on on financial accounts, to receive either a half or quarter of all of the deceased spouse's assets. This comes as a big shock to the named beneficiaries!


IRA Beneficiary Designations
Friday, October 21, 2011

I find that most people do not want to think about their own death, but usually realize they need a will. However, it is equally important to think about those assets that pass outside of your will, such as retirement accounts. Designating a beneficiary is really a bit trickier than most people think - such as not naming a minor, or setting up tax planning trusts, but simply naming your spouse. I recently read a relevant article that highlights some of these issues.

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