Every adult should have at least a simple Will in place to ensure that they do not leave behind an intestate estate. If you have yet to execute your Last Will and Testament, but are finally ready to do so, know that you are giving yourself and your loved ones a valuable gift. To ensure that your Will (and your entire estate plan) works as intended you should always consult with an estate planning attorney. To get you started down the right path, however, the Indianapolis Will attorneys at Frank & Kraft discuss some key steps in creating your Will in Indiana.
The Problem with Dying Intestate
Understanding why having a Will in place is so important should provide additional encouragement to get your Will started. If you die without a Will (or trust) you leave behind an “intestate” estate. The biggest problem with leaving behind an intestate estate is that you effectively let the State of Indiana (or state of residence) create your estate plan for you. Assets left behind in an intestate estate are distributed to legal heirs of the estate using the Indiana intestate succession laws. Those laws determine who gets what after you are gone. The law looks for close relatives first, such as a spouse and/or children, when distributing your property. More distant relatives may inherit from your estate if no immediate family members survived you. Not only do you have zero input regarding who inherits from your estate, but you don’t get to decide what percentage of your estate each heir inherits. For example, you might want one sibling to inherit most of your estate but by dying intestate you allowed each sibling to inherit the same share of your estate. Worst of all, precious assets, including family heirlooms, may have to be sold and converted into cash if heirs start squabbling over who gets which assets.
Indiana Will Creation Steps
For the first-time Testator (creator of a Will), the prospect of creating a Will can be intimidating. Thinking about your own death is difficult enough without adding to that the need to decide who should receive your “stuff.” To help you get started, consider the following steps involved in creating an Indiana Will:
- Make a list of debts and assets. A list helps ensure that you don’t overlook assets and debts; however, it may also help your Executor during the probate of your estate. Adding account numbers, locations, passwords, and other identifying information is also a good idea.
- Think about your beneficiaries. When you take time to really think about who should be included as a beneficiary, you may be surprised. Close family members are easy to add to your list; however, what about your best friends? Your favorite niece or nephew? Your church or religious organization? You may even want to add your family pet as a beneficiary.
- Choose your fiduciaries. Every estate plan has at least one fiduciary – the Executor of your Will. If you create a trust agreement in the future, you will need to appoint a Trustee. If you have minor children, you should also nominate someone to be their Guardian in case a judge needs to appoint one for any reason in the future.
- Consult with an estate planning attorney. Do not try to create your Will on your own. Doing so increases the likelihood of litigation that can cause irreparably discord among your surviving loved ones and hold up the probate of your estate for months, even years.
- Consider adding a Letter of Instructions. If any of the decisions you made in your Will are likely to raise questions or concerns, you might consider adding a Letter of Instructions to decrease the chances of a Will contest after you are gone. That same document can be used to provide practical information (such as how to winterize your vacation home) not found elsewhere in your estate plan.
Are You Ready to Create Your Indiana Will?
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about steps in creating your Will in Indiana, contact the experienced Indianapolis Will attorneys at Frank & Kraft by calling (317) 684-1100 to schedule an appointment.
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