What happens when someone dies without a will? Your estate can become stuck in the probate process, leaving loved ones without access to property or funds you intended for them after you pass away. 

Creating a will can feel like an overwhelming (and sad) task. However, having a legal will is a smart way to manage assets when you are no longer here. With a will in place, your loved ones or heirs don’t have to wonder how to distribute your estate, minimizing misunderstandings or disputes about those assets. 

Leaving a will behind to care for your family makes it easier for them to grieve without a complicated legal process that can last for months or years. With an Indianapolis Wills attorney, you don’t have to handle the estate planning process on your own. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is a Will? 

You might have seen movies that include stories about someone who scribbles final wishes on a piece of paper or a napkin before they die. The rest of the story consists of quarreling family members competing for money and possessions as they contest the legality of a “will” on a napkin. 

A legal will filed with your state helps you avoid this kind of drama when it’s time to distribute your estate to loved ones or heirs. A will is a critical legal document that documents your wishes about disbursing your assets. If you have minor children or dependents, your will also outlines their ongoing care. 

A napkin or scratch of paper can provide some direction for your final wishes. However, to protect your assets and ensure your executor handles them according to your wishes, the best estate planning lawyer Indianapolis offers can help you document and file a will to eliminate confusion about your estate.

What Does An Estate Planning Lawyer Do?

An estate planning lawyer does more than draft and file a will. With the right legal counsel, you have a partner to review every aspect of your estate, assets, and income to develop a final plan for these items. 

Hiring an attorney for estate planning also gives you a resource to prepare a living trust, health care directives, and help you avoid conservatorship or guardianship issues if you become unable to care for yourself and your assets on your own. 

Having the right attorney is an excellent way to protect yourself and your assets from harm throughout the end of your life. After you pass away, a lawyer helps keep your estate out of probate to expedite the process of honoring your final wishes. 

What Does Estate Planning Include?

Estate planning can be overwhelming without the right expert help. However, everyone needs a will. Even if you don’t have many assets, significant income, or many heirs, a simple will is a smart idea. 

Avoiding disputes during probate for your assets is critical. Leaving loved ones in limbo while your estate becomes stuck in court can add more difficulty to their grief. 

When hiring a lawyer to guide you through the estate planning process, they recommend the best ways to handle assets, money, and your estate—before and after your death—to maximize the benefits to your loved ones or heirs. 

Here’s how an Indianapolis Indiana attorney helps you develop an estate plan. 

Listing Your Assets

Before you can decide where your assets go, you must understand what you have. An attorney helps identify and document every asset associated with your estate to begin the planning process. 

Documenting Your Debt

Estate planning isn’t only about giving things away. At the time of your death, your estate becomes responsible for paying off any remaining debts in your name. When planning with a lawyer, they can help you with a strategy to reduce debt before your death to avoid passing that burden on to your heirs later. 

Understanding Taxes

Giving property to an heir after your death can also leave them with a heavy tax burden. If you own rental properties or a second home, an estate planning attorney can guide you through options to minimize the taxes when gifting real estate or other property. 

In some cases, gifting money before you pass away can save tax penalties for you and your heir. 

Converting Retirement Accounts

Leaving your 401(k) to loved ones can also saddle them with high taxes. If it makes better financial sense, an attorney will help you convert retirement accounts into Roth accounts to avoid taxing your heirs. 

Identifying Beneficiaries

Your will should include names and contact information for your beneficiaries. The estate planning process helps you identify beneficiaries and match them to accounts or assets you intend for them. With this type of detail, loved ones (and people who falsely try to claim part of your estate) have clear information about what they do (or don’t) get after you pass away. 

Distributing Miscellaneous Assets

Do you have a family heirloom you’ve saved for your son? What happens to your digital photos after you die? A thorough estate plan can account for all miscellaneous assets you want to go to specific friends or family members. 

Your plan can also include gifts to nonprofits or organizations you support and want to help through your final wishes.

Caring for Children

We hope you never leave minor children behind due to an early death. However, it’s always wise to plan for the unexpected and make sure your children have a plan for ongoing care in the event of your death. 

An attorney will help you document guardianship instructions for children or other dependents if needed.  

Choose the Best Indianapolis Wills Attorney

Not every Indianapolis Wills attorney is the right choice to walk you through the estate planning process and help your assets avoid probate. Make sure you partner with a lawyer who understands your wishes and has the experience to address every need with the right estate plan. 

Barnes Cadwell Law has decades of experience with estate planning, wills, and trusts. Contact us to learn how we can help protect your final wishes.