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One of the most common things I hear from clients is that they don’t have enough money or assets to warrant having a will or estate plan. But estate planning isn’t only for “rich people.” In fact, for those with modest wealth, a good estate plan is the best way to ensure that what you have is preserved for the purpose you intended.

An estate plan is a collection of documents that directs your wishes during your lifetime, as well as after your death. Virtually every individual can benefit from having an estate plan created by an attorney who focuses on this area of law. In the long run, it will make things easier for you and the people you love.

Reasons for an Estate Plan

Without your own plan, the State of Indiana will control the distribution of your assets after you pass away. The State is not interested in ensuring your wishes are carried out. (It doesn’t even know about those wishes because you didn’t put them into a legal document.) The State also doesn’t focus on speed, reducing your settlement costs or streamlining the distribution of assets. If you die without a will, the legal fees associated with probate (the court-supervised process used to value your estate, settle debts, pay taxes and transfer assets to your heirs) will eat into the estate’s assets. Your heirs will experience significant delays in receiving any of the remaining money or property.

Anyone who has children under the age of 18 definitely needs a will. You need to clearly spell out who will care of your children if you die. You also need to state who will manage any inherited assets for the child until they are grown. This will help avoid legal battles or having your children end up in the care of someone you would never have selected for this role.

Estate planning is not just about what happens when you die. It also covers what happens when you are alive. A solid estate plan ensures you have control over who can make medical and financial decisions on your behalf in the event you are incapacitated. If you are unconscious, ill or develop dementia, the lack of a properly designed estate plan would allow someone to petition the court to gain control over your medical care and assets. This person could be someone you would never want making these important decisions for you.

Goals of Estate Planning

At Applegate & Dillman, we use a variety of estate planning tools and strategies to accomplish a wide range of goals. These include:

  • Ensuring your family members are taken care of and your assets protected.
  • Substantially reducing or eliminating income, gift, estate and generation skipping taxes.
  • Keeping financial affairs and family matters private, rather than a matter of public record.
  • Taking care of disabled children or grandchildren.
  • Making sure heirs are mature enough to handle a large inheritance on their own and protecting the inheritance until they are ready.
  • Protecting your heirs’ inheritances if they divorce, remarry or fall under the influence of predators.
  • Passing values, work ethic and a sense of responsibility to heirs.
  • Ensuring a lasting impact on society through charitable bequests.

Documents You May Need

A comprehensive estate plan accounts for any scenario. The plan may include:

  • General Durable Powers of Attorney
  • Health Care Directives
  • HIPAA Authorizations
  • Last Will and Testament
  • Probate Avoidance Trusts
  • Asset Protection Trusts
  • Special Needs Trusts
  • Business Succession Plans

Every person or family situation is different. For a free consultation about your estate planning needs, contact Applegate & Dillman at 317-492-9569 or info@applegate-dillman.com.

On Thursday, June 18th, join Elder Law Attorney, Lisa Dillman, online to discuss the importance of planning for all stages of life. Too often families have outdated documents or plans in place that no longer achieve their long-term goals. As loved ones age, circumstances change, and businesses evolve it is important your estate plan is current and all-inclusive.


Blog by Lisa Dillman – Attorney, Applegate & Dillman Elder Law

Lisa Dillman is an attorney at Applegate & Dillman Elder Law. The firm specializes in elder law and Life Care Planning, a holistic approach to deal with legal, financial, medical and emotional issues involved in growing older. The firm has offices in Indianapolis, Carmel and Zionsville. Find out more at www.applegate-dillman.com


Applegate & Dillman Law Group, Storen Financial and LPL Financial are separate entities.