Estate Planning 101

Sarah J. Randall

Author: Sarah J. Randall

POST DATE: 1.14.16
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A friend recently told me that she did not need an estate plan because she did not have any assets of substantial value.  Unfortunately, my friend is not the only one with this misconception. Regardless of your age or financial status, everyone can benefit from having an estate plan that is tailored to his or her unique set of circumstances. 

As the creator of a Last Will and Testament, you are referred to as the Testator.  A Last Will and Testament allows you to nominate the person or persons that you would like to administer your estate.  This role is referred to as the Personal Representative or Executor.  Your Last Will and Testament is the opportunity to direct where your assets should go following your death.  Without a Will, the State of Indiana will direct where your assets go following your death via the intestate succession statutes. 

If you have minor children, a Last Will and Testament allows you to nominate a guardian to care for your children in the event of your death.  Additionally, you can nominate a trustee to manage the assets that your children inherit from you by establishing a testamentary trust in your Last Will and Testament.  A testamentary trust is a trust that is drafted within your Will document, but only comes into existence upon your death.  Within that trust, you can set guidelines for how the trustee is to manage and use the funds for your children’s benefit.  You can also determine the age or ages at which your children would receive control of their inheritance. 

If you are a small business owner, one aspect of your estate planning should include a discussion about the succession of your business following your death.  If there are key people that you trust to run your business following your death, a plan can be put in place now to lay out those details.  This allows for a smooth transition if something should happen to you, and it also allows your estate to maximize the value of your business following your death. 

If you own real estate outside of Indiana, you should consider establishing a revocable living trust so that you can transfer your real estate into said trust.  The revocable living trust will allow your heirs to transfer the real estate following your death without having to open an ancillary probate estate in another state.  The terms of the revocable living trust would direct how the real estate is to be disbursed following your death.  Prior to your death, you would be able to modify, amend or revoke your revocable living trust. 

A well-rounded estate plan will also include disability documents including a Durable Power of Attorney, an Appointment of Healthcare Representative document and a Living Will.  A Funeral Planning Declaration is another document to consider. 

If you have not yet had the opportunity to discuss your estate planning needs with an attorney or would like your existing plan reviewed and updated, please contact us to schedule a free consultation.

To learn more about Sarah and her practice, please visit her profile.