Most Americans do not have wills prepared, including people who are statistically closer to death than to birth. Depending on your family situation and the size of your estate, not having a will when you die can result in a long, sometimes painful process when distributing your estate amongst your family.
Each state has slightly different laws, so here are some tips for planning an estate in Indiana.
A will is a good idea at any age
The state’s intestate succession laws are enforced when someone dies without a will. As with most states, Indiana’s intestate succession laws are fixed and do not consider personal relationships or estranged family members. This means ex-spouses, long-lost siblings or disowned children might be awarded far more of your estate than you would have intended if you had prepared a will.
The good news is that wills can be simple, straightforward, and prepared without a lawyer. But if you have a sizable estate or a large family, you may want to enlist a lawyer to give your will a quick read for red flags.
Before you write a will, make a list of your assets
It may seem like a simple matter if you are young, but older people tend to have a variety of assets in various forms scattered across multiple locations and accounts.
To name just a few, you might have multiple bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, 401k accounts, cars, boats, storage units, life insurance, luxury items (e.g., jewelry), antiques, family heirlooms and digital assets, including cryptocurrency accounts and intellectual property on computers, blogs and websites.
Once you have a comprehensive list, you can start designating recipients for each item in your will.
What about taxes?
Estate and inheritance taxes apply in some states. However, Indiana does not collect these taxes from residents after death. If a family member passes away while a resident of another state, that state’s estate and inheritance tax laws apply, even if you live in Indiana.
Federal estate taxes only apply to estates worth more than $12.06 million.
Plan for your long-term care
Wills can also serve as instructions in the event you are incapacitated or are otherwise no longer able to care for yourself. Debilitating illnesses and elder care can become extraordinarily expensive, so be sure your wishes are clearly spelled out.
Your will should be a living document
Significant life changes should be reflected in your will. These can include marriage, divorce, having children, buying or selling property, moving to another state and inheritances.
It’s a good idea to review your will every few years in case you forget to add new or updated assets. Again, an attorney can ensure your intentions are accurately reflected in your will and not open to potential debate if disagreements arise within your family.