An estate plan is a system that determines what will happen to you and your property if health issues disable you during your lifetime and who will receive your assets when you die. Everyone has an estate plan. If you do not make a will, trust, appointment of health care representative, or power of attorney, state law may decide those outcomes. If you want to decide the outcomes for yourself, you need to work with a trust and estate lawyer to make a plan.
Who Needs an Estate Plan?
Almost every adult needs a plan to choose health care decision makers, people to manage financial matters during severe illness, and how assets will be distributed after death. Very wealthy people have different issues than people with more modest assets, but less wealth does not mean that a person has fewer planning needs. Complex family relationships often require detailed planning regardless of a person’s wealth.
No one wants to get sick or die before old age, but we cannot control those events. All we can do is take care of our health, pray for God’s protection, and plan for our worst case scenarios. Planning does not avoid crises, but a good plan can soften the blow. Here are some issues that an estate plan should address:
- Appoint health care decision-makers for extreme disability or at end of life
- Appoint financial and legal decision-makers to make important business decisions during your temporary or permanent disability
- Plan to reduce federal estate taxes due after death of someone with more wealth than $5.49 million (This is the effective exemption amount in 2017 – Indiana repealed its inheritance tax in 2013)
- Plan to manage uninsured nursing home expenses during permanent disability (Note: few people buy nursing home insurance and Indiana nursing home care averaged $6,439 per month, or $77,268 per year, as of July 1, 2017)
- Plan asset and income distributions for the surviving spouse and the married couple’s children by previous relationships (this is often the most complicated estate planning issue)
- Plan business ownership transition in advance for the death or disability of business partner
- Plan how to manage health, legal, and business issues for an unmarried couple (unmarried people have no legal rights to know or be involved in each other’s business and gifts between them can trigger harsh penalties if one needs nursing home care)
- Provide tax-deductible charitable gifts to churches, schools, or other charitable organizations
- Make protective trusts for beneficiaries whose physically or mentally disabled, financially distressed, or hopelessly irresponsible beneficiaries
Plan While You Can
Law changes often. Few people understand the law. Popular Internet tools that advertise on television mislead people because they offer mass-production plans that cannot consider or address most issues described in this brochure. Only lawyers with experience in estate planning, business law, and elder law can cover all the bases.
We all will die someday and crisis strikes many of us before death. A wise person seeks expert advice before the drama begins.
We Know the Territory
For over two decades, our attorneys have planned estates to reduce or avoid taxes, protect disabled beneficiaries, protect assets from business liability and healthcare expenses, and plan next generation family business ownership transitions.
Jeff and Jennifer Hawkins are Trust & Estate Specialty Board Certified Indiana Trust & Estate Lawyers. They teach trust, estate, business, and elder law courses to lawyers throughout Indiana. Jeff Hawkins holds licenses to practice in Indiana and Illinois. He is also a registered Indiana Civil Mediator, an Indiana Fellow of the prestigious American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC), and he served as the Indiana State Bar Association President from October 2014 to October 2015.
Contact Us and Tell Us What You Want Your Estate Plan to Do
We want to help you make an estate plan to avoid problems that concern you and accomplishes what you want your estate plan to do. Please contact our office and schedule a meeting to discuss those concerns and objectives with us. Follow this Link to Our Intake Forms for more information about scheduling an appointment.