With the stress and concern that 2020 has brought into our lives, many of us are considering consulting an attorney about an estate plan for ourselves, or helping aging relatives find estate planning help. Although we don’t typically associate the holidays with estate planning, this time of year presents a great opportunity to discuss delicate subjects with loved ones. Effective estate planning will ensure that those closest to you have the information they need during a period of grieving, when they need guidance the most.
The most difficult part of estate planning is starting the process. In 2020, only about 32% of Americans stated that they had an estate plan in place. It can be hard to find time to consider estate planning issues during the rush of day to day life, so the holidays provide a rare opportunity for family members to sit down and discuss critical questions such as:
Who do you want to take care of your financial affairs if you are incapacitated?
Who do you want to make health care decisions if you cannot?
Who would you like to receive your assets when you are gone?
Here are a few tips and conversation starters to take home for the holidays to discuss estate planning.
Tip #1 – Find out if your loved ones have done their estate planning according to the laws of their State of residence.
Each State has different requirements for Wills and Trusts and so improvised planning documents or internet forms can often go wrong in unexpected ways. Indiana, for instance, requires that you complete and sign a Will in the presence of two other witnesses who are disinterested parties and over the age of 18. We’ve all seen scenes of a movie where someone writes a quick note on a napkin and signs it as “will”. That’s neat for the movies, but it won’t work under Indiana law!
Tip #2 – Remind your loved ones that if they do not complete estate planning documents, the State will decide who gets their assets when they are gone.
If no valid will can be located for a deceased person, that person is said to have died “intestate.” If this is the case, the State of Indiana prescribes who the heirs of their estate will be. Money and other assets that your loved ones have worked to accumulate will be passed down according to Indiana law, and this might not be their intentions.
Tip #3 – We never know what the future holds, but more and more of us are facing the possibility of dementia or other ailments as we age. Nominating trusted persons to take care of finances and health when you are unable to yourself can help prevent the necessity of a formal, and expensive Guardianship in the future.
Indiana allows its residents to execute Power of Attorney documents where a person can nominate their attorney-in-fact. The attorney-in-fact will take care of things such as paying bills or filing taxes, or even making healthcare decisions, should the person become incapacitated or unable to make such decisions themselves. Without these documents, you’re leaving yourself without a plan should something happen that causes you to need assistance.
The holidays can be a perfect time to discuss estate planning with your loved ones. We, at Justice & Pyle, would love to assist you in ensuring that your wishes for the future are in writing and planned specifically for your needs, whether that be through a simple will, or a more complex trust. Give us a call to schedule an initial appointment today.