Virtual Estate Services

Life is busy! So many of us have had “estate planning” on our “To Do” list for far longer than we’d like to admit.

My estate practice relies on technology, to serve you from the comfort of home, at a time convenient for you. While I always enjoy meeting clients face to face, if your schedule does not allow for in person meetings, my practice relies on teleconferencing and video conferencing (Zoom, Google Duo, or FaceTime) to allow for virtual meetings at a time and location most convenient for you.

March 2020 UPDATE: At this time of social distancing, when in-person meetings are not available, we are ready to serve you virtually via either video conference or teleconference.

Estate Administration During Coronavirus & Social Distancing

Loss of a loved one is always difficult, but losing a family member at this time of pandemic is made harder by the social distancing and other restrictions being put in place. Funeral homes are limiting who can attend a funeral.

At this time, when it may not be possible to meet with an attorney face to face, my estate law practice is ready to serve families through use of technology. We can assist with estate administration without an in person meeting. We have a long-established practice of utilizing technology to provide efficient and reliable service for our clients. We are experienced using videoconference or teleconference to meet with clients. Our technology is easy and accessible to use, and will allow us to meet with you from the comfort and safety of your home.

We regularly represent out-of-state or remote clients, many of whom are unable to meet face-to-face. We are ready to apply this experience to serving more families during this time of social distancing, when we may not be able have an in-person meeting.

Our Indiana estate practice has utilized technology for many years, and we are an entirely electronic law practice. Indiana Courts now all use electronic filing of estate administrations. We can meet with you and open estate administrations all without meeting in-person. We are ready to help you through this difficult time of loss, and we understand that it is made all the more difficult and challenging by the current global public health crisis. We will do everything we can to ease the complications created by current restrictions and social distancing, and help you through the administration of your loved one’s estate.

Estate Planning During Coronavirus & Social Distancing

During this frightening time, we are all reminded of life’s unpredictability and the need for estate planning.  I utilize technology to virtually meet with clients, via videoconference or teleconference.  You can work with us to get your estate plan in place now, from the comfort and safety of your home, without in person meetings.

Key documents all Indiana adults should have in place, at any time, but especially during a time of health risk:

  1. Last Will and Testament. In its most basic form, your Will provides for you to direct the distribution of your assets titled to your name individually upon your death and appoint a person (or persons) to administer your estate upon your death. If you die without a Will, assets titled in your individual name may be subject to intestate administration.
  1. Appointment of Health Care Representative. Also called Health Care Proxy and Health Care Power of Attorney, this document provides for the appointment of a person (or persons) to make medical decisions for you in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself.
  1. General Durable Power of Attorney. In your General Durable Power of Attorney, you name a person (or persons) to make financial decisions for you in the event of your incapacity.
  1. Living Will. Your Living Will allows you to state your preferences regarding end of life decisions in the event of an incurable illness or persistent vegetative state.

Happy New Year – 2020!

Happy New Year!

Here’s what the new year brings for estate and gifting taxes. The 2020 tax changes are:

  • The Estate and Gift tax exemption rate is increased (adjusted for inflation) to $11.58 million per individual in 2020.  This is an increase from $11.4 Million per individual in 2019.
  • Planning together, in 2020, married couples can transfer a total of $23.16 Million in inheritance or gifts without gift or estate tax (subject to prior use of the credit).
  • The annual gift exclusion amount is unchanged from 2019.  It remains $15,000.

Remember, the tax law that ushered in these increased Federal Estate Tax exemption amounts expires at the end of 2025.  Talk with your accountant or attorney to see if you could benefit from taking steps before 2026 to utilize the tax exemption.

New Years Resolutions?

Is an estate planning tune up on your list of New Years Resolutions?

If yes, you’re in good company!

Check out this fun “punch list” from Above the Law: Estate Planning Resolutions For 2019: How To Be A Grown-Up In The New Year.

This is a great list and includes items I’ve written about here and here.  A short summary of their list:

  1. Write a Last Will and Testament.
  2. Make a Power of Attorney.
  3. Execute a Health Care Proxy.
  4. Purchase a life insurance policy.
  5. Check beneficiary designation forms.
  6. Consider long-term care and disability insurance.
  7. Consult with a financial advisor.
  8. Talk to your parents and grandparents about their estate plans.
  9. Consider burial options.
  10. Inventory your assets.

Estate Planning Considerations for Mothers

How should a mother provide for her children in her will?  A recent article asks this question, pointing out that many women live alone and need to make decisions on their own, and not with a spouse or partner, regarding their estate planning, finances, and inheritance for their children.

“There are 26.7 million women who are aged 65 or older, according to the 2016 profile of older Americans by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly half (46%) of women who are aged 75 or older live alone. These women have homes, financial resources and children, requiring them to make these decisions on their own.”

The author points out that a mother’s desire to treat her children “equally” in her estate planning, may not match the realities faced by her children.  “For many, dividing the inheritance equally among their offspring is a deeply held value. But it isn’t always easy: What if one child is a successful professional with a good pension plan, and the other is a struggling artist who may never have adequate health coverage? Or perhaps one daughter has a special-needs child, and the other has chosen not to have children? What then is the process of balancing their value of equal distribution and the contradictory need to make financially realistically decisions?”

 

Inheritance Tax in Indiana

Good news for Hoosiers doing their estate tax planning: Indiana does not have an inheritance tax.  Indiana previously had an inheritance tax, but it was repealed in 2013.  Thus, there is no Indiana Inheritance tax for those who die after December 31, 2012.

Indiana is in good company.  The majority of U.S. states do not have Inheritance Tax.  However, Federal Estate Tax and other taxes remain and are important considerations in planning your Indiana estate.

Finally Writing a Will

Here’s a journalist’s take on getting (his long put off) estate planning documents in place:

What it was Like to Finally Write My Will, by John Schwartz.

And here’s Mr. Schwartz’s “To Do” list from this piece.  Of course, I recommend always having a lawyer prepare your documents!

“Get a will. Really. Dying without one — “intestate” — is a drag for everyone.

Get a lawyer. Unless your life is wonderfully uncomplicated, you’ll want the help of an adviser. Even if you do it yourself, have an attorney look over your work.

Decide on your beneficiaries, and make sure your insurance policies and other investments are in agreement with what your will says.

Name an executor. It’s a tough and thankless job, so get someone with good judgment; this person can be paid out of your estate.

Got young kids? Name a guardian. If not, the courts will appoint one; why not take care of this essential matter ahead of time?

Secure your paperwork. Once the documents are done, put them in a safe place and make sure your relatives know how to find it.

Revisit it every five years. The world changes; your will should, too.”

This is a great starting list, but I also add:

Get Advanced Directives.  Have decision makers in place in the event of incapacity.

Put a Trust in Place for Minors.  Make sure you protect your children’s inheritance until they are at mature ages.

Do You Have A Will?

If the answer is “no,” a recent survey shows that you are not alone.  Only 4 in 10 American adults have a will or trust in place.  While older Americans are more likely to have a plan in place (81 percent of those age 72 or older and 58 percent of boomers), younger Americans, including those at ages of having minor children, are much less likely to have a plan.  A “a whopping 78 percent of millennials (ages 18-36) and 64 percent of Generation Xers (ages 37-52) do not have a will.”  See this AARP article for more information about the survey results.

 

Prince – Dying Without A Will?

The recent passing of music legend Prince serves as yet another reminder to get your estate plan in place.  As reported in the press, Prince’s sister has filed papers with the Court alleging that her brother died without a will.  Dying without a will in place is called “intestate.”  You can find my summary of Indiana’s intestate laws, here and here.  The intestate laws act as a default estate plan, and very likely may not include all of your intentions.

In Prince’s case, it has been widely reported about his great business abilities and his strong desire to be in control of his music and his public image.  It also appears Prince was generous and was a benefactor to many charitable organizations. If Prince truly did not have a Last Will & Testament (and this remains to be seen), then his great desire for control over his art and his charitable intent will not be realized now that he has passed.  A true loss of opportunity for his great legacy.

For the rest of us, this is a reminder that it is never too early to plan and make sure our intentions will be followed.