Estate Planning Lawyer Helping You Plan for Your future and Manage Your Assets In Crown Point
Considering what will happen to your assets after your death is a critical conversation and one which too many people leave until it is far too late. This can leave your loved ones with a complicated web to untangle, which can only exacerbate the pain they feel at your passing. To help make the process as smooth as possible, it is essential to ensure that your affairs are in order sooner rather than later.
What Is Estate Planning?
As the name suggests, estate planning involves organizing the property and assets which make up your estate before your death. There are two main areas to consider: wills and trusts.
What Is A Will?
A will simply refers to any document which describes what should happen to the assets and property of the creator after their death. They are easy to create, and can be executed by any resident, as long as you are the age of 18 and of sound mind. The decision to draw up the will must be voluntary with no external pressure placed on the creator. It also must be in writing, to be legally valid, and can be ‘self-proving’ as long as two witnesses sign the will. This simply means that the validity of the document has been affirmed by the witnesses and the deceased and expedites probate after your death.
You can change your will at any time simply by creating a new document; for this reason, you should always ensure that your wishes are written down in an official, self-proving document in the event of any changes.
What Is A Trust?
Some people opt for a trust as an alternative method of dealing with their assets following their death. There are two main types of trust; revocable and irrevocable.
- Revocable: Revocable, or living trusts are made while the settlor is still alive. They can be amended or revoked completely at any time and will take effect as soon as they are signed. The settlor serves as the original trustee – the holder of the property – and the title of the property is transferred to the trust. Any property can be added or removed at any time. Because ownership of the assets is transferred while the settlor is alive, the trust owns the asset upon their death – this is useful for avoiding probate.
- Irrevocable: Irrevocable trusts may not be changed, altered, or revoked once they are created. The terms are much tighter; not even the settlor can retrieve assets or property once moved into the trust.
Trusts contain three parties: the settlor (or trustmaker), the trustee, and the beneficiary – the person due to receive the trust. Indiana law states that minors cannot inherit property, so trusts are a great way to dictate how your children receive your assets if you die while they are underage.
As with wills, anyone 18 or older who is of sound mind may set up a trust. It must be set out in writing, contain the names of the trustee and any beneficiaries, and indicate what property the beneficiaries should receive and how and when the property should be distributed.
What Happens If I Don’t Have A Will In Place?
In the event that you die with no documentation, the division of your assets will be decided by the probate court, a practice known as intestate succession law. Your property and assets will be split according to your legal relationships, with spousesand children receiving top priority. Your loved ones may also be required to head to a probate court to name an executor, and this can be a prolonged process.
What Is Probate?
Probate is a legal process that occurs if someone dies owning property in their own name, with no beneficiary and no joint owner. Probate occurs with or without a will. All assets are under court jurisdiction until the probate process is completed and a named party – usually a family member – will be appointed to handle your estate. Once named, they will be responsible for dividing the assets, including paying creditors and outstanding debts and dividing and distributing the property to any beneficiaries. The probate process can take six months to a year, or possibly longer in the event of complex estates or if issues arise.
How Do I Avoid Probate?
The easiest way to avoid probate is to ensure that your estate is properly planned and managed. By contacting a qualified, compassionate legal professional, you can make sure that this is done to the highest standards. Here at Hilbrich Law Firm, we have many years of experience under our belt, helping Crown Point residents to settle their affairs, take care of their loved ones, and enjoy total peace of mind. Call us at (219) 924-2427.