If you are an adult, you need estate planning. It’s as simple as that. Life is unpredictable, and we all owe it to our family and friends to ensure that they are left with a clear understanding of what to do upon our passing. Well-drafted estate planning documents can help make a painful event less complicated for our loved ones.

You are the best person to decide what happens to your estate upon your passing. Through a will you can do just that by addressing how your estate is distributed, who it is distributed to, and who oversees this process. And if you have just gone through a major life event such as having children, getting married, or going through a divorce, it is important to update your existing estate planning documents to reflect those new changes in your life.

Should you pass without a valid will, your estate will go through what is known as “Intestate Succession.” Indiana law has outlined the distribution process in intestate succession under Indiana Code 29-1-2. For example, if you pass without a spouse or children, your estate is split equally between your parents and siblings with your parents getting a minimum ¼ share each. While this may be exactly the type of distribution you had in mind, many people want their estate to be handled specifically and in accordance with their wishes. Having a well-drafted and updated set of estate planning documents will give you peace of mind that those left behind when you pass have a clear idea of your intentions.

In addition to using a will to set out your desired distribution scheme, some assets can be distributed through a process known as non-probate transfers. Interests in these assets pass by other means such as jointly held title or trusts. Depending on your current life situation, establishing assets so that they go through non-probate transfer may be something that is right for you.

Advance directives are another important consideration when it comes time to make or update your estate planning documents. Advance directives deal with two important issues. The first issue, what kind of life-saving treatment is to be performed on you should you be critically injured or terminally ill. Through a living will you can address the level of care you would want, such as resuscitation or the use of a breathing machine or feeding tube. The second issue, who will make decisions regarding your health care should you be physically or mentally unable to do so on your own. These documents could become important in settling disputes as to the care your family and friends believe you would want.

Estate planning is one of the most important, but often overlooked, aspects of life. A properly-drafted will and set of advance directive documents will make the difficulty of your passing easier on your family and friends by helping them to avoid the complexities of intestate succession and uncertain health care wishes. As part of their family law practice, the attorneys at McAnlis Law help clients with end of life planning, including estate planning and advance directives.

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