FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-11-08
Those in the Hoosier State owe it to themselves and their families to think ahead and plan sensibly for the future. This means facing the fact that humans are mortal. Making an estate plan for the future necessarily involves making a will, especially if there are children in the family.
Once a person has decided to make a will, it is important to do it right. After all, there is little benefit in creating an estate plan if it cannot be administered according to the creator’s wishes. In the first place, this means getting competent help; do-it-yourselfers often run into problems. Each state has its own specific laws governing the form of a will, so websites promising to make it quick, easy and cheap can’t guarantee that the resulting document will hold up under the law of any specific state.
Even if the language and form of a will is done properly, people who prepare their own wills often make other common mistakes. For example, they frequently don’t get the appropriate signatures. Witnesses must not be people who are involved with the estate — neither beneficiaries nor personal representatives. If a beneficiary or personal representative does sign as a witness, the will might be invalid, or the witness might be barred from receiving property or assets in the will.
Once a person has selected an estate planning attorney to draw up the will, there is homework to do. All one’s assets must be inventoried. The attorney will want to know about all one’s financial assets, including bank accounts, retirement funds and investments. Besides financial assets, other items that may not immediately come to mind must be considered. Some people own domain names, for example, and these are considered distributable assets.
Some assets do not need to be disposed of through a will. When spouses own property jointly in both their names, the property ownership passes automatically to the surviving spouse. Assets held in a beneficiary account, which designates someone the money will go to upon the death of the account holder, will not be passed along by a will.
If there are children, the will needs to identify who may be their guardian and who may be the trustee in charge of their inheritance until they reach adulthood. Deciding who should fill these roles will take careful thought.
Along with a will, Indianans will want to look into preparing other legal documents. A power of attorney designates a trusted person to manage one’s financial affairs, which may be especially useful if the person granting the power is incapacitated and there is business to be done. Most people will also want to have an advance directive for health care, which lays out one’s wishes for medical treatment and names someone who can make health care decisions if the person is unable to do so.
An experienced Indiana attorney can explain these documents and other considerations in estate planning thoroughly, and can help prepare the materials necessary for peace of mind about the future.