One of the biggest components of estate planning is proper documentation. Indiana law requires that estate planning documents be formally drawn up and properly executed with the necessary signatures and ceremonies before they are legally binding. While each person’s estate and circumstances are unique, there are certain estate planning documents that everyone should have to protect themselves and their families from conflict and the unknown. One of these is the estate planning document that most people are familiar with: the last will and testament.
What is a Last Will and Testament?
A last will and testament (more usually shortened to just ‘will’) is a document that states your final legal wishes. Your will is submitted to the probate court in the county where you were domiciled at the time of your death and the probate court ensures that your final wishes contained in your will are carried out.
Your will serves several primary functions. Most people are familiar with the most prominent function of a will: to pass on the deceased’s property after they die. However, a will serves many other purposes as well, such as:
- Naming an Executor to manage your estate
- Naming Guardians for children and dependents
- Prioritization of debts and taxes
- Providing for pets
- Disinheriting certain individuals
What happens if I don’t have a Last Will and Testament?
Failure to put together a proper will during your lifetime can spell disaster for you and your family. If a person dies without a will, under Indiana law they are said to have died ‘intestate.’ A person who does not have a will and has died intestate has no say in how their estate is handled. In fact, Indiana law will dictate everything about the person’s estate, including:
- Who handles the estate
- Who becomes guardian of your children or dependents
- Which family members get what property
- How much each family member may collect from your estate
In some cases, if there are no living family members, the property may even go to the State of Indiana. When this happens, the property in your estate is said to ‘escheat’ to the state.
Most people are not comfortable with leaving their life’s savings and family’s financial future in the hands of Indiana’s intestacy laws and for good reason. Financially irresponsible children may inherit money you never wanted them to have. Your spouse may not be left with enough money to maintain their accustomed lifestyle. Your children could go to a relative that you don’t want to raise them. The number of unintended and potentially disastrous situations are too numerous to account for.
Everyone Should Have a Last Will and Testament
Almost all of these devastating situations can be avoided with a simple will. Yet despite the relative simplicity of putting together a last will and testament, nearly 60% of Americans do not have a will. Do not put yourself in this situation. Accidents happen every day and uncertainty exists in everyone’s life. Take steps to protect yourself and your family. Put together a last will and testament today.