Tax/Estate: Betty Quick

By Arthur O. Murray

Betty Quick tries to avoid conflict. After all, she grew up in the middle of it. She was born in Izmir, Turkey, after World War II and at age 15 moved to Athens, Greece, where she finished high school. “Tensions between Turkey and Greece were very high,” she says. “I can still recall when they would cut off flights from one country to the other — usually because of some dispute concerning Cyprus.” That often meant her father, a North Carolina native who worked in both countries as a buyer for Reynolds Tobacco, would be stranded in one country or the other. “Father would then have to fly to Yugoslavia to get back to Turkey.”

Quick wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she came to the U.S. for college in 1966. She got a bachelor’s in history at Duke but knew it wouldn’t take her far. She initially considered trying to get a job with the federal government. “A number of my friends went to Washington, D.C. I actually did make some contacts, including Elizabeth Dole — she was Elizabeth Hanford at the time. Her family was close friends with my roommate’s family.”

After a year off, she decided to go to law school at UNC Chapel Hill. After graduation, she went to work at Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice. The firm had an opening in estate planning, and she had enjoyed her classes in estate law. “It’s a nonadversarial relationship. It’s usually helping people. Working with corporations didn’t appeal to me. I love the personal relationship that I have with clients, getting the chance to work with them and their families.” Often the children of clients come to her when they need estate planning.

Quick also enjoys the field because of its connection to charitable causes. She helped set up two general-purpose charitable foundations in High Point, the Charles E. and Pauline L. Hayworth Foundation and the Katharine H. Daveler and David R. Hayworth Foundation. The Hayworths were siblings in a furniture-manufacturing family who died without children. “I enjoy finding ways that a family can get involved with philanthropy.”

And the foundations enjoy working with her. Frank Davis, executive director of the Concord-based Cannon Foundation, which makes health-care and education grants in Cabarrus County and rural areas of the state, has worked about seven years with Quick, a member of the foundation’s board of directors. “She listens to what her clients want to accomplish and understands how to make that happen,” he says. And while he agrees that she rarely takes an adversarial position, “she will not avoid asking meaningful questions, and she expects substantive answers.”

Quick hasn’t been able to avoid the effects of conflict completely. An ongoing tug of war over the federal estate tax has made her job more difficult. The amount of an estate that is exempted from the tax has been going up — to $2 million Jan. 1 — and the tax is scheduled to go away in 2010 but return in 2011. “It was believed after the last election that the Republicans would have enough votes to make repeal permanent. That’s on hold, and there may not be sentiment now for repeal,” Quick says.

Compromises have been proposed, but none seems to have momentum. “Who knows which one of those will survive and be enacted? We can’t do work for clients with any degree of certainty.”