The Plain English Legal Podcast
Probate Roundtable

Probate Roundtable

March 24, 2021

Taking an estate through probate can be one of the most expensive, time-consuming, and frustrating experiences someone can go through. While a large part of my legal practice is focused on estate planning that avoids probate, sometimes there is just no choice. I am joined by probate attorney Cara Williams and my former probate legal assistant DeJah Debon to discuss the three main phases of probate, some of the main problems people face when trying to go it alone, and even tell some stories from our past experiences.

To get in touch with Estate Administration Attorney Cara Williams, check out her website at or call 919-612-0890. 

For more information on avoiding probate, check out my law firm's website at and our online resources at  


Six Tip for a Small Club’s Service Project: A Civitan Podcast

Six Tip for a Small Club’s Service Project: A Civitan Podcast

January 23, 2021

6 Tips For a Small Club’s Service Project

While I have been a Civitan for a relatively short period of time, I have been involved with various service organizations and non-profits for the last few decades. I’ve held leadership positions in small and large organizations, and several principles for successful projects have remained consistently true regardless of the size of the club. However, these six factors are critical for small clubs to execute successful service projects. The natural and desired side effect of successful small service projects are 1) club growth, 2) a sense of teamwork among members, and 3) the gradual expansion of small service projects into recurring large-scale events.


Tip 1: Never Underestimate What You Can Get for Cheap or Free

Service projects sometimes (but not always) have expenses associated with them, and even a simple project like a park or roadside cleanup requires items like trash bags, gloves, and extension grabbers. Many Civitan members may have access to those items and would be willing to lend or donate them. I used to do weekend leadership and strategic planning weekends for college-aged student leaders, and there was no shortage of businesses or even non-profits we served who had free space for us to use rather than renting meeting rooms.

Larger companies often have programs to help the community, and a certain hardware supply chain regularly donated paint and painting supplies for a club to paint rooms at domestic abuse shelters, group foster homes, and non-profits with clinical health testing programs as long as a written request form was submitted about six weeks before the supplies were needed. Finally, always, always, always check to see if the county or municipalities has places or resources for your project. Often, parks and recreation departments have specific programs to help non-profits and the public hold events at publicly-owned facilities, and they may even have things like tables and chairs to use for cheap or free.

Service projects may need supplies and locations but resist the urge to jump into fundraising to get money to pay retail rates for what you need. In the end, you don’t need money to conduct a successful service project; you only need certain things that money can buy but that you may get for cheap or free if you look for it.


Tip 2: Partner With Other Organizations That Need Help

Some of the simplest to organize but most satisfying projects involve little to no planning because other organizations do all of the planning for your club. Some extremely worthwhile non-profits and government programs simply lack the funding to hire people, so they rely on volunteers to accomplish their mission. In the past, I’ve worked with Raleigh Parks and Recreation to spread mulch in parks. They have the mulch, tools, and work gloves, but they have very few employees to put the mulch where it needs to go. Instead, groups of various sizes can sign up for work, and all they have to do is show up and be told what to do.

Other organizations like food banks need volunteers to move and organize shipments of food at their warehouses. Clothing goodwill organizations like Note in the Pocket need people to sort bags of donations into age and gender groups for later delivery to qualified children and their parents.

Civitan clubs can organize their members to show up at the correct time ready to do manual or other labor. That’s it. No supplies needed, no money required, and no planning beyond getting your members there. It’s about as easy to plan and execute as it gets, but your members can end up with a very satisfying volunteer experience.


Tip 3: Partner With Other Civitan Organizations

While partnering with other organizations can relieve your club from many planning obligations related to a service project, partnering with other Civitan groups can help you tackle larger projects where you may need more volunteers. And Civitan Clubs should never neglect to think of Civitan Junior or Campus Civitan clubs and what they might be able to contribute. When you combine Tips 2 and 3, you might just have one of the most easily-planned, large scale service projects around. Several years ago with another organization, we managed to pull together members from two adult, four college, and two high school service clubs for more than 60 volunteers to knock out a mulching project in an hour and a half for the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department and that would normally take a few full days of work.

What may be more important is that students working on this type of project can feel valued, connect and communicate with adult volunteers, and be just as impactful on the project as the adults. Joint, equal-effort, mutual projects like this can help the members of the student clubs look more favorably on joining the adult clubs once they are no longer students. Of course, the idea of these projects should always be offered (never mandated), and it is always best to work through the club advisors to make the project a reality.


Tip 4: Keep It Super Simple

The idea behind easily planned service projects is to help smaller clubs become effective in the community, grow their membership through project satisfaction, and eventually have the club move into larger projects that will require more planning and even money. However, you should never underestimate compulsions to overcomplicate things on these simpler projects. Don’t get sidetracked.

In the previously-mentioned large scale mulching project, the president of the largest adult club commented on how great the project turnout was and how it should be done every year. Then he suggested that next year we make T-shirts for the event. Who gets a T-shirt? Everyone? Which club or clubs pay for the T-shirts? Or do the members pay for their own T-shirts? Do the students get free T-shirts, or do they pay a discounted-price, or do they pay full price like everyone else? Who is in charge of T-shirt design? What if a club wants to participate in the project but can’t afford or doesn’t want to pay for T-shirts? Who is in charge of ordering the right T-shirts in the right sizes for everyone and making sure they get them? Do they get the T-shirt on the day of the project or ahead of time so they can wear it to the project? How are the T-shirts delivered, and do we need competitive bidding for producing the T-shirts?

Suddenly, a wildly successful but simple-to-organize project requiring no money to execute was about to become a series of months-long meetings among multiple club boards, arguments over money for T-shirts, designs, and logistics. When your club has the resources, volunteers, and bandwidth to handle a large annual project on its own, then things like T-shirts can be easily delegated to a committee. However, until that time comes, keep the simple club service projects simple by keeping out overcomplications, especially ones that involve money.


Tip 5: Plan It Out In Writing

Even the simplest service projects need to be planned out, and there is no reason not to go through the same process as if it were a much larger project. While it does take some work for a Civitan member or committee, running through a Project Planning Worksheet such as the one I typically use (downloadable here for Civitan use) can help get things organized even if the answers are extremely brief. As your project goals grow, the same worksheet can help you organize with more detailed answers. The main questions to think through and, most importantly, write down answers to are:

  • Describe the event as you see it if it is 100% successful.
  • What resources are needed to make this event a success? (List them).
  • Where will you obtain all of these resources? What steps are needed for each resource to ensure that it is available?
  • How will the event be publicized? How will the success of the event be publicized?
  • Describe the steps and action items (in chronological order) needed to realize the vision of the event, incorporating the resources listed above and the publicity needed.
  • Assign action items to members of your committee, including the due date and check-in dates.
  • Name the main aspects of the event and who will be in charge of each aspect on the day of the event (example for a talent show--refreshments, entertainment, seating, admission, & cleanup).
  • List all follow-up actions to be taken after the event, and who is responsible for them.
  • What are three things that could go wrong, and how would you address those items?
  • Evaluate the project with your committee and write down any observations (especially when you may do the event or project again).

Even the simplest projects deserve a written plan and writing down even basic details provides a greater chance of project success.


Tip 6: Publicize, Publicize, Publicize!

Having great service projects will energize members, build the club into the future, but it can not have a strong recruiting impact if people don’t know (and can’t see) what you’ve accomplished. Often, clubs can get so wrapped up in the actual project, that publicizing the event becomes an afterthought, and tremendous opportunities for recruiting members is lost. There are some best practices that should be a part of every service project plan:

  • Appoint a specific person to take pictures/video and a specific person to write an article, or one member to do both, ahead of the event so they are focused on that job;
  • Establish specific dates when the upcoming project will be publicized, which forms of social media and other outlets will be used, and, most importantly for recruitment, contact information for people who may want to help;
  • Determine the specific dates when the now-completed project will be publicized, which forms of social media and other outlets will be used, and, most importantly for recruitment, how people can join your club because they liked learning about the project.

In addition, be sure to send your article and pictures in for the Eastern Tarheel to

Civitan clubs providing service to the community does not have to be complicated or expensive. While larger projects may provide a greater service impact, sometimes smaller clubs can use these six tips for service projects to help grow into those bigger ones in the future.

No Evidence of Election Fraud

No Evidence of Election Fraud

November 18, 2020

The results of the recent presidential election have generated allegations of massive voter fraud in multiple state, and the Trump campaign is accusing multiple states of voting misconduct. Thing is, there is absolutely no evidence, and no amount of courtroom and Twitter temper tantrums are going to change the results of the election. The court cases primarily focus on:

* Allegations that tens of thousands of dead people voted

* Accusations that mail-in ballots were fraudulent

* Claims that people voted in battleground states after Election Day

None of these allegations has held up to courtroom scrutiny because there is no evidence. While politicians can make wild claims and accusations in the media without any proof to back things up, you actually have to possess evidence once you get in front of a judge. And attorneys could be found in contempt of court or even disbarred for knowingly lying to a judge in a legal matter. 

Eight Steps Every Senior Should Take

Eight Steps Every Senior Should Take

October 19, 2020

I was recently asked to spell out the basic things that every senior should have in place, and I came up with eight specific items. In this podcast, I discuss not only the legal documents to have created and executed, but also some practical and financial considerations as well as brief discussions on all eight.

For more information on the basic legal documents everyone needs, please check out my free e-book Estate Planning Basics through the Linktree account at To contact  our office about the financial health check that incorporates projections for long term care costs, please contact my law firm's sister business The Care Assistance Center,LLC at 919-518-8237. 

Trainwrecking Your Estate: One of the Worst Decisions You Can Make

Trainwrecking Your Estate: One of the Worst Decisions You Can Make

October 14, 2020

When it comes to estate planning, which also means planning for incapacity, there are a lot of decisions to make. Who will be the executor of your Will? Who are your Agents under the Durable General Power of Attorney? Who are the Successor Trustees of Your Revocable Living Trust? Who would be Conservator of Your Estate should you become incapacitated for an extended period? Unfortunately, I have often found attorneys and clients overcomplicating things in the planning process.

In this episode, I review the first of the "Big Four Questions," one of the worst ways individuals (and sometimes attorneys) can approach answers to that question, and some of the potentially catastrophic situations that can come up.

For more information, check out the free e-book Estate Planning Basics available on our Linktree account at or the audio version on this podcast.  

Getting a Check for $522,000

Getting a Check for $522,000

October 12, 2020

Getting your estate in order also means leaving behind at least basic information for your heirs. Having at least a basic outline of your assets and where they are can make a huge difference. In one case, we stumbled across a bank account in California owned by the deceased person that his heirs had absolutely no record of. So just how much money was in that account? We didn't know until we actually got the check in the mail.

For more information on planning and the downsides of probate, please check out the free download of my e-book Estate Planning Basics available at or the premium download of the audiobook version at: 


Nick Nardulli & The 5 Core Elements of Investing

Nick Nardulli & The 5 Core Elements of Investing

October 8, 2020

When it comes to investing, there are elements people want and don't want. In this interview with financial professional, generational planning advisor, author Nick Nardulli, we discuss what he calls the "Five Core Elements of Investing," which are risk, taxes, regulations, inflation, and depreciation of the dollar. Nick is also an author of Remarkable Retirement, Volume 3: America's Leading Retirement Advisors Speak, available on by clicking here.  


In this episode, Jeff and Nick discuss what families can accomplish by teaming up to hedge against the downsides of these five core elements, the growing trend of families planning together, and the benefits of open family discussions around wealth. For more information on the concepts discussed here, check out the free webinar and materials at titled Securing Against the SECURE Act and the Five Supervillains of Investing Webinar Materials. To see if meeting with Jeff and Nick makes sense for you and your family, contact Mike or Felicia with The Care Assistance Center at (919) 518-8237. 

Choosing an Age of Inheritance

Choosing an Age of Inheritance

October 6, 2020

Choosing an Age of Inheritance

Over the years, many of my clients have had differing views on just when their beneficiaries should be inheriting their whole share. In my twenty-five years of practicing law, I've seen these ages of inheritance run from 18 to186. (Yes, that is one hundred and eighty-six years old). 

The most important thing to realize is that this age of inheritance doesn't signify when the beneficiary gets *any* support at all, but instead mandates when the trustee has to give control over the whole inheritance. The trustee can provide support along the way for education, living expenses, or even distribute the whole thing early. It's just that, unless there is a disability of some kind, the has to complete the distribution by the chosen age. In the end, my clients have to choose an age of inheritance they feel is appropriate.

For more information on estate planning, please visit the law office on the web at To access free programs and other materials, please check out the links to our programs and other free materials at

The General Retirement Strategy

The General Retirement Strategy

October 5, 2020

General Retirement Strategy

If you've been told your retirement strategy should always be to max out your contributions to 401ks, IRAs, and other tax-deferred accounts, then you are just building a tax bomb that will go off in your retirement. This is especially true in light of the 2019 SECURE Act changes.

In this episode, I will cover the very general three-tiered retirement investment strategy we typically recommend to our clients to minimize inome taxes during retirement balanced against the "free money" that sometimes comes with company retirement plans. As a note, I am not discussing specific investments in this episode; I am only talking about accounts that have different types of income taxation. The reality is that all of the accounts I discuss can have a wide range of different investments depending on your age, risk tolerance, and number of planned working years left.

For more information or to see if my office can help you specifically, please my Care Assistance Center office at 919-518-8237 and ask to set up a call about financial planning. For more information, please check out the downloads through my account at 

Five Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Five Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

October 2, 2020

Five Warning Signs For Dementia and Alzheimer’s

As adult children migrate home for the Holidays, their senior parents sometimes show a few early warning signs that Dementia or Alzheimer's may be starting. In this podcast, I will elaborate on these five signs and what to do. If you see any of these signs, it is worth consulting a medical professional, and it is probably time to think about rearranging assets and income in light of future long term care costs.

Here are five specific warning signs:

* Overstocking or understocking at home

* Mail and bills accumulated in piles

* Fuzzy short-term memory but clarity about the past

* Odd misplacement of regular household items

* Routine tasks become confusing and frustrating

If a loved one is showing these signs, the worst thing a family can do is “wait and see” without seeking the help of a medical professional. While we always want to hope for the best for a loved one, having the facts can help the family protect itself more effectively. For more information on Long Term Care asset and income solutions, please check out my book The Long Term Care Solution available through my account at 

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