Meet the Partners: North Carolina
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I was raised by two wonderful parents, William “Billy” and Donna Riley in the quaint town of Hillsborough, North Carolina. Growing-up, I wanted to do everything: Girl scouts, tap dance, ballet, cheerleading, track, theater, ceramics, water skiing and tennis just to name a few. Early on, I found I loved helping other people. At the age of 13, I began volunteering at the OCIM Thrift shop, and later, at the Ronald McDonald House. My parents instilled a strong work ethic in me from an early age. By the time I was 16, I was working part-time at Duke Medical Center, where I stayed for almost 9 years.
After graduating from Orange High School, I attended Elon University, majoring in Biology. Looking to spread my love for community service, I helped to found the first service sorority on Elon’s campus- Epsilon Sigma Alpha. While I intended to go to medical school after college, I changed my mind after sitting as an alternate juror on a murder trial when I was 19years old! I fell in love with the legal arena- the excitement and constant challenge of advocating for others!
After graduating Cum Laude from Elon in 1992, I married my high school sweetheart and soulmate, Roland. While he was busy farming, I stayed active in the community, volunteering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help make the wishes of terminally ill children come true. We left my husband’s family farm for Lansing, Michigan, where I attended Thomas M. Cooley Law School, one of the largest law schools in the nation. I volunteered at the Elder Law Clinic and was an officer in the Student Government Association. I was a Law Review Assistant Editor and successfully argued on 2 National Moot Court teams, among other things.
While I had fun, I also worked hard, graduating law school in the top third of my class. After passing the Michigan State Bar, I then went on to clerk for an amazing judge who really taught me what lawyering was all about! Since I was accustomed to working longer work weeks, I became a litigation lawyer by day and a floral designer by night, a passion that I found before law school. I also found new causes to serve in the community including Big Brothers Big Sisters and Junior League. Additionally, I served on the Michigan State Bar Character and Fitness Committee. On Saturdays, you could find me connecting with the community through “Christ in Action” events, where we did things like giving out free water and hot chocolate at parades.
After moving back to the family farm in Efland, North Carolina, I obtained my North Carolina Law license and continued practicing law in Greensboro, North Carolina at Teague, Rotenstreich, Stanaland, Fox, and Holt. In 2005, Roland and I had an amazing son, Evan. Then, in 2008, we were blessed with a beautiful daughter, Shayla. Shayla was born with a heart defect and when she was 5 months old, her heart stopped unexpectedly. As a result, she suffered a severe brain injury. She was left disabled and medically fragile, so for me, it was a calling to focus my practice on protecting families for the unexpected life events and for the necessary end-of-life preparation: Estate Planning and Trusts. I opened my own Mebane, North Carolina based practice that included Estate Planning and Probate. I then joined Rabalais Law, a multi-state firm that focused solely on Estate Planning and on helping people protect their assets and families. In the summer of 2016, several of my partners and I broke-off and re-organized our practice, which is now rebranded as Thomas Walters, PLLC. Nine Attorneys serve multiple states across the country, with one continued focus- making Estate Planning and Settlement Simple. Our Firm business model is based on freely educating the public. You see, we all know that education is key to families making the best decisions, and I love sharing knowledge with all that I meet.
I am a licensed North Carolina Attorney in good standing with the North Carolina State Bar. I am a member of the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) as well as a member of the Society of Financial Services Professionals (SFSP). My unique perspective as a special needs parent, coupled with my caring heart, drives me and our firm to educate and help families in North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, and Texas on how to keep their hard earned money, life savings, and assets for the benefit of future generations.
To me, nothing seems more unfair than for a family lose all they have worked so hard for after working so hard and paying for years into a government system that was intended to provide “a comprehensive social insurance system covering all major personal economic hazards with a special emphasis on unemployment and old age insurance.” Pres. Roosevelt Exec. Order #6765, 1934. There must be a simpler, better way, and yes, it is all about learning what we don’t know, so everyone can make the best decisions for end of life planning. After all, we are all called to be good stewards of what we have been given. My grandmother once said, “I’ve been getting old since the day I was born.” Nothing rang truer than those words and certainly, none of us know when our time will come. We all need a plan, and I truly consider myself privileged to assist families throughout Raleigh, Charlotte, Cary, Wake Forest, Fuquay Varina, Franklinton, Holly Springs, Apex, Morrisville, Durham, Chapel Hill, Pittsboro, Hillsborough, Efland, Mebane, Graham, Burlington, Haw River, Elon, Roxboro, Greensboro, High Point and all of North Carolina.
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