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Estate Planning FAQ.

Q: What is estate planning?

A: Estate planning is a method for the management of your health care and property in the event you cannot make decisions for yourself or pass away.  The estate planning process allows you to address your specific wishes for your health care or property management if something happens to you. Estate planning is more than a simple Will, it should include preparations for health care issues, inheritance tax, and property distribution.

Q: Do I need an estate plan?


A: Whether you need an estate plan is a personal choice.  If you are concerned about what may happen to your dependent children and your property in the event of your death, an estate plan can help address these issues.  If you are concerned about what type of health care treatment you will receive should you become ill or injured, a Living Will can allow you to provide directions to your family and medical professionals. 

If you pass away without a Will, your property will go to individual’s designated by a state statute. Having a Will allows you to designate the transfer of your property and who will be in charge of that transfer. 

You can only prepare an estate plan while you have legal capacity (are of sound mind) to do so. Good estate planning takes time and effort.  Creating an estate plan before you are unable to do so is important. 

Q: What is included in an estate plan?


A: While an estate plan should be tailored to your specific needs, generally an estate plan will typically include a Will, a Healthcare Power-of-Attorney, a Financial Power-of-Attorney and a Living Will.  Other estate plans may involve a Living Revocable Trust or other more complex arrangements. If you have minor children, a Will typically includes an appointment of a guardian and/or trustee for them. An estate plan should also take into consideration your wishes for your health care treatment and distribution of your property.  A good estate plan should minimize the affect of your incapacity or death on your loved ones. 

Q: What is a Will?

A: A Will is a legal document, also known as a Last Will and Testament.  This document appoints a personal representative and directs that personal representative to pay your last bills, expenses, administrative costs, and taxes, then transfer the remainder of your estate as you direct. If you have minor children, your Will can appoint a guardian for those children and a trustee to manage their funds. A Will may allow for an unsupervised estate and that your personal representative not be required to post a bond, both of these items will generally allow the probating of your estate to move smoothly with less expense.

Q: What is a Living Revocable Trust?

A: A trust is an agreement that determines how a person's property is to be managed and distributed during his or her lifetime and also upon death. A trust is called a "living" trust when it is established during the person's lifetime and as a "revocable" trust when the person has reserved the right to make changes to the trust during his or her lifetime. Living Revocable Trusts can be used to avoid some probate proceedings, saving a person's family time and money during the probate process.  A Living Revocable Trust does not prevent Indiana Inheritance Tax or Federal Estate Tax.

Q: What is a Power of Attorney?

A: There are many types of Power of Attorneys.  A Power of Attorney for Health Care appoints a person you designate to make decisions regarding your health care treatment in the event that you no longer have the ability to do so. A Financial Power of Attorney appoints a person you designate to act on your behalf when you are unable to handle your financial matters. Power of Attorneys can be set up for a limited period of time, perhaps while you are traveling, or for prolonged periods of time.  Power of Attorneys can come into effect immediately, or only when you are incapacitated.  A Power of Attorney can be an essential tool in your estate planning.

Q: What is a Living Will?

A: A Living Will is a document which provides instructions to your family and health care providers regarding the type of care you wish to receive.  This document would only come into effect if you cannot make these decisions yourself. 

Q: What is Probate?

A: Probate is the legal process that takes place after someone dies with an estate.  The probate process controls the administration of the deceased person’s estate.  The deceased person’s debts must be paid, property must be transferred, and inheritance taxes must be paid.  A properly executed Will can provide for the probate process to be unsupervised, which generally creates a simplified process for the personal representative.   

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