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Do you really need an estate plan?

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2020 | Estate Planning

It doesn’t matter if you are affluent or someone of more modest means. If you’ve worked hard and saved wisely for years, you may be considering estate planning. You should get started – now – by discussing your estate planning needs with an Indiana estate planning attorney.

The details of an estate plan must take into account financial, family, and personal considerations. There is no single formula that is right for everyone. What are your options? How can you create the best possible estate plan? Keep reading for some important answers.

There are good reasons to start planning your estate at once – no one knows what tomorrow holds – but the most effective estate plans are not made in haste. You need to make informed decisions and choices so that your instructions are executed faithfully when that time comes.

Why Do You Need an Estate Planning Attorney?

Why, you may ask, do you need an estate planning lawyer when blank document forms and “do-it-yourself kits” are widely available? Estate planning lawyers see all kinds of disputes and difficulties emerge when personal estates are not properly planned.

A northwest Indiana estate planning lawyer can offer you sound guidance along with insights that you might not consider on your own. You may have good estate planning alternatives that you are not aware of. When you plan your estate, the right attorney’s guidance is essential.

Should you wait, you could find yourself making decisions in haste in less-than-ideal circumstances. For example, if you are suddenly incapacitated, or if a routine medical exam discovers a terminal illness, disputes are more likely among your family members and heirs.

When Should You Begin to Plan Your Estate?

Estate planning requires time and thoughtful consideration. That is why you should begin the estate planning process now, when there is no dispute about the soundness of your mind or the voluntary nature of your decision-making.

Your finalized estate plan should express your values and articulate your desires for your family members. Try to establish a plan that will not generate needless resentment or controversy. If a loved one thinks the plan is not fair, explain why you made specific decisions.

For many of us in Indiana, a living trust offers practical, substantial advantages. For others, a living trust provides no real benefits, so a last will and testament is sufficient for your needs.

What Do Wills and Living Trusts Accomplish?

Defined simply, your last will and testament is a legal document that spells out “your will” – your instructions for the division and distribution of your property and assets when that time comes. Wills are revocable, so while you are alive, a will can be modified.

However, living trusts additionally let you manage your property and assets while you are still alive. An adequately funded and properly drafted living trust will ensure that should you become incapacitated, your property and assets will be handled according to your instructions.

When you create a living trust, you transfer assets into the trust’s ownership, and you stay in control of those assets. The primary disadvantage of a living trust is that it may be more expensive than a last will and testament. That’s because a living trust must be actively maintained and funded.

Is a Will or a Living Trust Best for You?

What is best for you? Living trusts and wills accomplish most of the same goals, so if you’re not an expert on finances, you will want to discuss your circumstances and goals with an estate planning attorney who can recommend the options that will work effectively for you.

Typically, a will distributes your property and assets to your heirs when that time comes. If you are a parent, you can also name a guardian for your minor children in your will – in case the unexpected happens.

Like a last will and testament, a living trust transfers your property and assets to your heirs after you pass away, but unlike a will, a living trust lets your estate avoid the lengthy and costly probate process. In some cases, probate can substantially reduce the value of an estate.

How Can You Avoid Overlooking Something Important?

If you decide on a last will and testament instead of a living trust, let an Indiana estate planning lawyer help you write the document. Otherwise, it is easy to overlook key details – such as who will care for your pets or who will get a family treasure passed down for generations.

Before you create a will, learn what your loved ones consider important. Designate someone who will take care of your pets, then talk with that person about a caregiver’s responsibilities.

If you’re a parent, designate someone to act as a guardian for your child or children. If you don’t, and the worst-case scenario happens, the custody and fate of your children may come into dispute.

An Indiana estate planning attorney will see to it that the language in your will is plain and easy to understand, that no important details are overlooked, and that you are able to scrutinize your various estate plan options thoughtfully and carefully.

How Should You Store Your Estate Plan Documents?

When estate planning is complete, you will need to store the estate plan’s documents securely. “Cloud-based” storage has emerged as an inexpensive and popular storage method, but are the storage locations – and the businesses that sponsor them – stable and trustworthy?

Can others access your estate plan when the documents are needed? Paper documents are almost always hard or impossible to locate when the time comes.

Online document “vaults” may in the future become the best document storage alternative, but for now, you cannot rely on startup businesses that are working in a new industry. You must have secure and permanent storage for your estate plan documents.

Can You Have Peace of Mind About the Future?

Have your concerns about wills vs. living trusts and document storage addressed by a northwest Indiana estate planning lawyer. The right attorney can also discuss tax and debt issues, asset and property distribution, and – if you choose a last will and testament – the probate process.

Achieving peace of mind about your loved ones and their future starts with a phone call to the right estate planning lawyer. Because no one can know what tomorrow may bring, if you have loved ones who are counting on you, your best option is making that call promptly.