According to one survey, nearly half of all Americans may lack a basic estate plan.  A prevailing misconception is that estate planning benefits only the ultra-wealthy and that a person’s assets will naturally go to her “next of kin.”  However, that may not be the case.  In Indiana for example, a person dying “intestate,” that is without even a basic will, might not be able to pass on all of her assets to her surviving spouse.  Talk about a rude awakening for loved ones!

In addition to a will, certain types of trusts might also be helpful.  Living trusts can, under many circumstances, allow a deceased person’s assets to flow directly to her heirs, thus avoiding the sometimes expensive and always public process of “proving a will” through probate.  Owning real property (e.g., a vacation home) in another state is a particularly clear example where a living trust might be beneficial, because it could help the decedent’s estate avoid probate in both states.

Beyond the financial aspects, there are also very good personal reasons to have an updated estate plan in place.  An estate plan can include directives to survivors and doctors about end of life wishes.  Living wills, Do Not Resuscitate Orders, and Durable Powers of Attorney – collectively “ancillary documents” – can help ensure that an individual’s wishes about how he will be cared for at the end of life will be met, and that his loved ones will have the authority to carry out his plans.  And, perhaps most personally, a good estate plan will also include instructions for caring for heirs.  This is especially true when individuals have minor children, but might also impact grandchildren and close friends.   

For many people, thinking about estate planning is an unpleasant experience; no one wants to dwell on the end of life.  But a little planning can go a long way to making sure that your legacy is easy for those you leave behind to carry out.  If you don’t have a relationship with an estate planning attorney, we can connect you with a trusted professional.     


The opinions expressed on this web site are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.