Estate Planning

Will & Estate Planning Attorneys in Fort Wayne

The term estate planning can be a bit misleading. You do not need great wealth to have an estate plan. In fact, every person whether single, married, children, no children, wealthy, or not wealthy should have an estate plan. The complexity of your estate plan will depend on your individual needs and wishes.

As a general concept, estate planning simply means the efforts you make prior to your death or incapacity to prepare for who will manage your assets if you become too ill or otherwise are unable to manage them yourself, and who will receive your assets when you die. Assets are anything that you own; house, vehicle, bank accounts, jewelry, firearms, retirement accounts, life insurance, etc. Your most important asset that people normally do not think about when considering whether they need a Last Will and Testament (Will) are your children. The list of assets could go on and on, which is why you want to prepare and plan for the inevitable. Your estate plan is your plan for the future and will instruct those named to carry out your wishes when you are unable to. A Durable Power of Attorney (POA) grants powers to someone you choose to act on your behalf if you are unable to.

One option is to do nothing at all and continue to put off making an estate plan. There are many reasons we do not recommend that. You may think that is because we will make a profit from you creating an estate plan (which of course is somewhat true as we do charge for estate plans). However, we often make MORE money from estates where the person had no will and no plan because, quite frankly, an unplanned estate can be chaotic, disorganized, and unnecessarily complicated and therefore more time consuming, which means higher attorney fees. By spending a little time and money now, you not only put your family at ease but also leave more for them in the long run. An up-to-date estate plan coupled with personal organization is an act of love toward your family. This may not be an appealing or comfortable topic as most do not want to think about death or incapacitation, but the truth is it could happen to anyone, at any time.

Effective estate planning takes into consideration both incapacity while still alive and what happens after death. At Perry Law Office, we believe and recommend that every adult should have a Will or Living Trust of some sort directing how you wish your estate to be distributed and who will be the guardian of your minor children.

Estate Planning Includes:

Last Will and Testament

A last will & testament should provide simple, straightforward directions to your loved ones, and can be used to give specific personal property items, monetary gifts, real estate, and other assets to individuals or even charities. A will should also name a “personal representative” (the modern term for an “executor”) to carry out the terms of your will and work with the estate attorney on handling anything that needs to go through probate. Your will can also be used to name a guardian for a minor child, create a trust for family members who are too young to handle direct gifts, and even provide for the care and financial needs of family pets.

It’s never too early or late to get one. Talk to an attorney to discuss your needs for a will.

Power of Attorney (POA)

Power of Attorneys (POA) are essential tools in your estate plan as these give a person, of your choosing, the power to act on your behalf (step into your shoes) if you are unable to manage your affairs. There are two basic types of POA’s that every person should have, Financial Power of Attorney and Health Care Power of Attorney. In addition to Health Care Power of Attorney, you may also want to consider having a Living Will, which states whether you want life-prolonging services or not in the event the services would be futile.

A Power of Attorney (POA) is a document that gives legal authority to another adult to act on your behalf regarding financial matters and any other non-medical related decisions based upon parameters set by you such as when a doctor can confirm you are incapacitated, or even immediately for your convenience and assistance in handling financial matters.

If an adult becomes incapacitated and does not have a pre-existing power of attorney, guardianship of the person may need to be obtained through the court which is a more expensive and time-consuming process. Naming a power of attorney is a simple, economical way of giving your family peace of mind.

Every person, even younger persons, should have a power of attorney (POA). A POA can be drafted to only take effect if a person becomes incapacitated or incompetent. It probably will never be needed, but should a person become incapacitated it can save thousands of dollars and much stress on family and friends. A person must be mentally competent to create and sign a POA.

Living Will

Many associate living wills with a person giving authority to “pull the plug” on life support, but a living will is actually the stated wishes of whether hydration and nutrition (food and water) should be supplied if life appears otherwise unsustainable. With this document, the choice can be made to continue or discontinue hydration and nutrition, or the individual can leave that decision to their loved ones.

Our attorneys can draft a living will which allows you to dictate to your family how you want doctors to proceed with treatment if something were to happen to you or during the last stages of life. Having a living will takes the burden off family members during an already difficult time.

Trusts/Living Trusts

There are a variety of trusts to choose from, and whether you need a trust at all or which may be best for your situation is based on a number of variables that our attorneys can discuss with you.

One benefit of a Revocable Living trust is that real estate located in another state can be put into the trust, making it much easier to transfer upon the death of the owner. Life insurance can also be used to fund a trust and the distribution to loved ones can be more detailed than is typical in a last will and testament. Perhaps most importantly, probate of an estate is generally a matter of public record where carrying out the terms of a trust is not, so trusts can be used to protect family and financial privacy.

Estate Administration – Probate

When a loved one passes away, several questions come up: What happens to their house? Bank accounts? Life Insurance? What about bills they owed? Funeral expenses? What if the person didn’t have a will? Figuring out what to do next, especially in the midst of grief, can be challenging. The Fort Wayne lawyers at Perry Law Office are here to help guide you through the probate process from start to finish.

If your loved one had an up to date estate plan, we can assist you in probating the will and carrying out their wishes. If your loved one did not have a will, we can explain to you how the Indiana intestacy laws work. We offer a low, flat rate for “small” estates valued at less than $50,000 and we try to keep your fees as low and reasonable as possible for larger estates, charging only hourly for the work we actually perform instead of taking a percentage of the estate as some law firms do.

Contact the Fort Wayne Estate Planning Lawyers at Perry Law Office Today

We believe we have very competitively priced estate plan packages. Let our experienced attorneys guide you through the entire process and help you tailor a plan specific to your needs and wishes. Contact the Estate Planning Lawyers at Perry Law office today for a free phone consultation to discuss your options.

How much will my family have to pay in inheritance taxes?

Residents of Indiana used to have to pay inheritance tax, but the tax was abolished in 2013 for individuals who passed away in 2013 or thereafter. (If the individual died in 2012 or earlier, the inheritance tax was still in effect then, and you should contact us to discuss what tax rate and exemptions apply for that situation). As of January 1, 2018, the federal estate tax exemption was $5.6 million for an individual and 11.2 million for a couple. So unless you have an estate worth more than $5.6 million or have property in another state with inheritance tax, your estate is not taxable. However, estate taxes seem to be used often as a political football at both the state and federal level, so there is the chance it could always change in the future. So stay tuned.

Who will pay the bills I leave behind?

Your estate is liable for your debts. That may mean your heirs get less after the bills are paid, but your heirs generally are not personally liable for your debts, especially if you are insolvent (the fancy legal word for broke). There may be exceptions to this, however, so if you are concerned about this or if you are an heir who is being asked to pay a bill left by your loved one who passed away, contact us to discuss your rights and responsibilities in these situations.