Wills

Estate Planning with Wills Attorney

I am knowledgeable in the use of wills in the estate planning process.  Wills are important documents and can sometimes be complex. I understand the nuances of drafting wills and work closely with clients to accomplish their estate planning goals.

What is a will?

A last will and testament, commonly known as a will, is a traditional document that is present in most estate plans.  This document instructs how a deceased individual would like his or her estate to be administered.  This includes the distribution of assets, guardianship of minor children and funeral or burial arrangements.  It might also include the creation of a trust.  A trust is another estate planning tool to which assets are added and managed by a trustee according to the specific instructions of the creator.  

An executor or executors are also named in a will.  These individuals are responsible to act as a representative of the deceased during the probate process and to administer this person’s estate according to his or her wishes.  There can be a lot of administrative work involved in serving as an executor and it is therefore important that this person work with a qualified estate planning attorney during this time.

How are wills commonly used?

A will can be used as a stand-alone document which is at the center of an estate plan.  This document then serves as the sole instruction as to how the estate is to be administered.  

A will can also be used in conjunction with a trust.  The trust is set up before or after a person’s death, funded and then managed by a trustee. When the person passes away, any assets that are subject to the trust are administered according to its terms.  These assets could be distributed right away without the need for probate.  They could also remain in the trust and be distributed gradually or pursuant to certain conditions.  

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process by which a will is validated.  Although a will has to be executed pursuant to specific state law requirements, a court still needs to approve it before any action can be taken.  In Indiana, this court is the Probate Court.  

After the court approves the document, it supervises the administration of the estate throughout the entire process to ensure that the decedent’s wishes are being fulfilled in accordance with the applicable laws.  There are various options in Indiana depending on the size and characteristics of an estate, some involving more or less supervision. These options can be navigated with the help of a capable estate planning attorney.

Wills are very popular estate planning documents, and because they are so common, some people consider a do-it-yourself approach.  This is a mistake.  Only a qualified estate planning attorney can evaluate your situation, inform you of your options, draft a comprehensive document and execute it according to Indiana state law.  I can assist you with each of these steps.