As we reviewed recently, updating or completing an estate plan is something we do not like to think about but need to get done. Action steps include:
- Figure out the person(s) or place (like a bank) that you want to carry out your estate plans. Getting a plan done is nice, but someone will need to do what you want. This “executor” or “personal representative” can be a person or bank. It is always helpful if you let the person or bank know ahead of time.
- Gather up everything you organized recently – titles to cars, deeds to real estate, life insurance policies, and so on. Set an appointment with an attorney that does estate planning work. If you need to find an attorney, then I can recommend some, or check with family and friends for recommendations.
- If you do want to complete this process on your own with forms you find on the internet, then please have an attorney review it.
- Look over the draft of the estate plan and ask questions. This is your plan, so get all the information you need.
- Complete your will and/or trust by signing it.
While you are at it:
- Get your funeral planned and paid for.
- Get documents done that allow other people to carry out your health care wishes and take care of your financial affairs in case you cannot do so yourself.
- Finally, if you own a business that is going to go on after you die or become disabled, then put a plan together there as well.
Every situation is unique, and you may not need all these steps, or you may need to do more. Please make sure there are formal, legal instructions as to what is to happen to everything you own when you pass away. Losing a loved one is painful enough without having to make these decisions while grieving.
If there are no formal, legal instructions in place at your passing, then the laws of intestacy come into play, and they can have surprising results. Married couples may assume that everything just automatically goes to their spouse no matter what. NO! If you have a wife, children and no will, then everything gets split between your spouse and children. (Ponder your teenage son with a substantial sum of money and call your attorney…NOW!) Laws of intestacy get even more complicated without a spouse or children. Please save some trouble here and get an estate plan done.
Please note, this information is not to be considered legal advice. In accordance with COVID-19 public health guidelines, all in-person meetings at CICOA are canceled until further notice, including walk-in appointments and the legal clinic. If you need legal services, please contact Indiana Legal Services or call 1-844-243-8570 Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.