- December 22, 2021
- CLLB Law
- Estate Planning
One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones is an estate plan designed specifically for your family. When you take the time to talk to our estate planning attorneys, you can proactively explore a will, power of attorney, trust and other documents that will serve your loved ones for decades. An estate plan also can be key to avoiding probate in Indiana.
The time to think about estate planning is now, while you’re healthy and have time to talk to your heirs about your inheritance decisions. There are many reasons why people want to avoid probate – it can be lengthy, expensive, and stressful for surviving family members. With a few simple steps, you can minimize the impact of probate or avoid it altogether.
What is probate?
Probate is a legal process in which a court determines whether a will is valid and authentic, and then administers it. Probate also refers to the process in which the estate of someone who dies without a will is reviewed and divided among beneficiaries based on Indiana probate laws. Another word for dying without a will is dying “intestate.” If there is no will, the administrator will oversee the collection of a deceased person’s assets to pay remaining liabilities before beneficiaries receive their share.
An attorney explains how to avoid probate in Indiana
The attorneys at Church Langdon Lopp Banet Law Firm would be glad to explain the options and benefits of an estate plan. There are several estate planning tools that can help you avoid significant aspects of probate, thereby simplifying and streamlining the process. Some assets can avoid probate altogether. Following are some important documents that are often part of an estate plan:
Last Will and Testament
This is the most basic end-of-life document that lays out your wishes for the distribution of your assets, including real estate, vehicles, furniture, family heirlooms, jewelry, and other valuables.
Financial Power of Attorney (POA)
This grants someone the legal authority to act on another person’s behalf in the event he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to make financial decisions. The person who draws up the POA and for whom it is made is known as the principal while the person who is selected is called the attorney-in-fact or the agent.
Health Care/Medical Power of Attorney (POA)
This grants someone the legal authority to act on another person’s behalf in the event he or she becomes unable to make health care decisions. This document goes farther than a living will and may be used in conjunction with one. Also called a Healthcare Proxy.
This is for couples who have minor children and want to name individuals to serve as guardians should the parents die unexpectedly. By putting this in a document, it allows a couple to discuss their decision with the guardians they have chosen and even the children, when appropriate.
There are many kinds of trusts that could benefit your family – the most basic of which are revokable (living) trusts and irrevocable trusts. Things like real estate and other major assets can be placed in a trust, thereby avoiding the probate process and going directly to heirs when you pass away. There are also specialized trusts including:
- Pet Trust – provides for beloved animals
- Special Needs Trust – provides for the future financial needs of a disabled child or family member
- Digital Asset Trust – gives instructions about what to do with your digital technology, including computer hard drive, digital photos, information stored in the cloud, and social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Advance Medical Directive
This document sets out your medical wishes should you undergo anesthesia, enter a coma, or otherwise become incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions. This is where you articulate the extent to which you wish to be resuscitated, or if you want a DNR (do not resuscitate).
This document lists the beneficiaries of bank and brokerage accounts, life insurance policies, pensions, and other investments. While beneficiaries are typically identified when an account is opened, it’s wise to have a single document in your estate plan that lists all beneficiaries for every account. This allows you to collect all the information in one place.
Letter of Intent
While not a legally binding document, a letter of intent is a place where a person can add additional instructions to heirs about the preferred use or dispensation of assets. It’s also a place where you can give specific instructions for your funeral and burial wishes.
List of Important Documents
This document lists all of your important documents, as well as where they’re located whether that be in a safety deposit box, a desk drawer, or a post office box. These important documents could include:
- Life insurance policies
- Pension documents
- Marriage certificate
- Birth certificates
- Divorce records
- Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds
- Bank account numbers
- Vehicle titles and registrations
- Real estate deeds
How long does it take to go through probate?
There’s no specific amount of time that every probate process takes to complete. Suffice it to say, though, that it can often take many months. Not only does this tie up assets for a significant period, but it’s also expensive because you may be paying attorney’s fees to complete the process.
Speak to an estate planning attorney in Indiana
If you have questions about probate or would like to talk to an attorney about creating an estate plan, the lawyers at Church Langdon Lopp Banet Law Firm would be glad to help. We have decades of experience helping individuals and families create unique plans designed to fit their specific needs. Creating an estate plan is one of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones. To find out more about how we can help, call us at 812-725-8224.