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Wills and Estates

Estate planning is the process of making arrangements for the management and distribution of your property after you die. Your estate consists of all of the property that you own and all of the debts that you owe at the time of your death. Having an estate plan ensures that your loved ones are provided for after death, that your wishes are known in the event you become incapacitated, and that your affairs are effectively managed when you are not around to manage them yourself.

The key to effective estate planning is to account for all possible contingencies. At Martin & Humphrey, Attorneys at Law, we help clients build customized estate plans that accomplish all of their personal objectives. Our expertise in wills, trusts, powers of attorney, living wills, and all aspects of estate planning help ensure that your wishes will be carried out when you die or become incapacitated. We offer professional estate planning and probate litigation services to clients in Kokomo, the surrounding counties and throughout the state of Indiana.

A will is the most popular means of distributing estates after death, giving you the power to direct who will receive your property, who will carry out your final wishes, and who will care for your minor children, among others. Although you do not need to consult an attorney to draft a legally valid will, you will greatly reduce the risk of committing an error that can invalidate your entire will if you seek the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney. A lawyer at Martin & Humphrey can correct any technical deficiencies and identify possible ambiguities in language that may jeopardize the legality of your will.

Even if you already have a will, you may wish to consider updating it if certain circumstances in your life have changed. The following are just some of the events in life that may require amending your will:

  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Death of a devisee
  • Birth or adoption of children
  • Increase/decrease in the value of your property

When you die testate (with a will), your will is submitted to probate. In a probate proceeding, a judge determines the validity of your will and oversees the distribution of your property. If you die intestate (without a will), your estate will be distributed according to the laws of inheritance in Indiana. Your property will be passed on to your heirs by what is known as “intestate succession,” which distributes property in statutorily predetermined shares.

Like wills, trusts are an important tool in estate planning. A trust may be created while you are living (an “inter vivos trust”) or by will when you die (a “testamentary trust” or “pour-over trust”). When you set up a trust, you are entrusting your assets to a “trustee,” who manages the assets for the advantage of your designated beneficiaries. Although you may retain control of your assets, they are essentially “owned” by the trustee, who owes a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the trust. Trusts may be either revocable or irrevocable during your lifetime, depending on which type of trust you choose. The most common type of trust is one that comes into existence after your death for a minor who will be inheriting assets. Those assets should be protected so that they are used for the purposes you wish, such as a college education for a minor child.

Powers of Attorney and Living Wills

Planning for incapacity is an essential part of any estate plan, allowing you to appoint someone to manage your affairs in the event that you become mentally or physically incapable of doing so yourself. A durable power of attorney is a legal document that designates another individual the authority to make important decisions on your behalf regarding matters such as finances, medical care, or transfers of property. Unlike a general power of attorney, which becomes effective immediately, a durable power of attorney does not become effective until you become incapacitated or mentally incompetent, and remains in effect until you regain capacity.

Every estate plan should also consider a living will. A living will is not a will in the usual sense, as it takes effect while you are still living (hence the term “living will”) and it does not provide for the distribution of your property. Rather, a living will informs medical professionals, in the event that you become terminally ill or lapse into permanent unconsciousness, of your wishes regarding your healthcare. Without a living will in place, difficult decisions such as whether or not you will be resuscitated or placed on a respirator will fall on the shoulders of your spouse, children, parents, or other family members.

Don't let the burden of managing your end-of-life affairs be placed on your loved ones. Consult an experienced estate planning attorney at Martin & Humphrey to help you develop an estate plan that is tailored to your goals and objectives. Call (765) 453-7777 today to discuss your legal options with an experienced estate planning lawyer.

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