3 Basic Rules of Estate Planning and Probate in Indiana

While probate and estate planning are two very different practice areas, they do have a connection. Strategic estate planning overseen by a licensed attorney can limit or even eliminate the probate court’s involvement in your and your loved one’s affairs upon your death.

At Webster & Garino LLC, our lawyers are well-versed in both the estate planning and probate process and can provide individual guidance for both based on your assets and personal goals for your financial legacy.

The estate planning process involves many tedious legal details, while probate is one of the most nuanced processes as it takes place after your death. To help you understand probate and the importance of estate planning before you pass, our knowledgeable team has gathered the 3 basic rules of estate planning and probate in Indiana that you need to know.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Contact Webster & Garino LLC today for compassionate probate or estate planning solutions.

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process by which the court manages and distributes an individual’s estate. An estate is made up of one’s assets, from personal property to real estate to bank accounts. In probate court, state law dictates that the estate’s debts and taxes, such as the federal estate tax, must be settled before any estate assets are distributed to beneficiaries.

Much of probate is carried out by a personal representative, also called an executor. This person is named in a will. In the absence of legal documentation, an individual, often a family member, must petition the court to be appointed as the personal representative.

An Indiana probate lawyer with Webster & Garino LLC can walk your loved ones through this process after you’re gone. Call Webster & Garino LLC today for more information on our estate planning and probate solutions.

3 Basic Rules of Estate Planning & Probate

1. Probate Freezes an Estate

The probate court prevents the distribution of assets while it validates the will, and while the personal representative notifies heirs and creditors, evaluates appraisals for the estate’s value, and pays taxes. While the appropriate heirs will eventually receive their due share, the claims of creditors and tax authorities have priority on estate assets.

Based on the rate of communication, efficiency of the court, and accessibility of any necessary documentation, the probate process can be lengthy. In the end, though, it is an important legal proceeding that helps prevent fraud.

The Process of Probate

On average, it takes about ten months to complete the probate process in Indiana once a death certificate is filed with the appropriate court. But probate is highly dependent on the presence of a legal will or trust.

Unless an estate’s value is under $100,000, an Indiana probate court will oversee the distribution of an individual’s estate. If you or your loved one have a proper will or trust, then the probate of your estate will be quicker and less involved. If you or a loved one die without a will, then the distribution of your estate will be entirely up to Indiana probate law and a court-appointed executor.

If your estate does end up in probate court, then the probate process may include the following steps:

  • The court validates the will.
  • The court formally assigns management of the estate to the personal representative.
  • The personal representative posts a bond if required.
  • The personal representative informs creditors and beneficiaries.
  • The personal representative calculates the estate’s current value.
  • The personal representative pays taxes, debts, court fees, and all other estate expenses.
  • The personal representative distributes assets.

Due to the subtle intricacies of probate, it’s important to work with a skilled Indiana lawyer who has the experience necessary to successfully guide you and your loved ones through the court process.

The Importance of a Legal Will or Trust

If you want to try to avoid probate or simply want more control over the entirety of your estate even after you’re gone, then you will need to prepare a legal trust. The presence of a will alone will not avoid probate. Our estate planning attorneys at Webster & Garino LLC are eager to help you and your loved ones prepare quality legal documents that will ensure your final wishes are fulfilled.

Without a legal will or trust, Indiana has established specific state laws that outline exactly how the court is to handle the distribution of the estate. Those standards include:

  • If you are married with no children, then your surviving spouse may receive the entire estate.
  • If you are married with children, and this is your first marriage, the court will divide the estate between your spouse and children. The percentages given to each family member change if you’re in a second or third marriage, and if you have children in each marriage.

Your life and your family are unique, so why should your financial legacy be forced into a standardized mold for distribution? Break the model and prepare a legal plan that fits your individual needs with help from Webster & Garino LLC. Contact us today for superior estate planning services.

2. Not All Assets Require Probate

Whether or not you have a will or trust established, there are certain assets that you may consider part of your estate which do not require probate. Whether or not an item undergoes probate usually depends on whether the item has established documentation that dictates how ownership will be transferred after your death.

An asset that has such documentation might be exempt from probate.

Assets That Require Probate

  • An inheritance bequeathed to a beneficiary who has already died
  • Real estate owned individually by the deceased
  • Individual bank accounts without a beneficiary designation
  • Real Estate owned as Tenants in Common
  • Life Insurance Proceeds without a beneficiary designation
  • Death benefits without a beneficiary designation
  • Unpaid Wages
  • Tax Refunds

The term “estate” is broad to encompass a menagerie of assets. Miscellaneous items that could end up in probate include jewelry, furniture, or other personal household items that do not have a title.

Assets that Do Not Require Probate

Any assets set up to transfer automatically to a beneficiary upon someone’s death do not require probate supervision. Property held under joint tenancy will immediately become the property of the surviving tenant or tenants. Beneficiaries named on life insurance policies receive their funds without probate oversight. Additionally, bank accounts and brokerage accounts with named beneficiaries automatically transfer assets.

Other assets that do not require probate include:

  • Securities and vehicles with transfer-on-death beneficiaries
  • Retirement accounts with beneficiaries

3. Estate Planning Prepares for More Than Death

When most people think of estate law tasks, such as preparing a living trust or last will and testament, they think of the passing of themselves or a family member. Unfortunately, this unpleasant sentiment, no matter how important, can turn people away from proper estate planning.

But estate planning is about more than death – it can also help you and your loved ones prepare for the possibility of mental or physical incapacity. The legal instrument called a durable power of attorney grants your named agent the authority to manage your financial and general affairs when you are not able. A healthcare power of attorney grants your named agent the authority to manage your health care when you are unable to do so. You also can declare your desires about end-of-life healthcare decisions within a living will.

The decisions that you make concerning your health care and assets are deeply personal. By consulting an estate planning attorney with Webster & Garino LLC, you will gain valuable insights about how to transfer your assets, provide for minors, or limit stress and expenses for your family after your passing.

Contact us today to receive specific advice about estate planning in Indiana.

Work with a Professional

When you’re ready to start estate planning, or you’re about to undergo probate for a loved one’s estate, ensure you reach the most beneficial outcome with help from a skilled attorney. Our team at Webster & Garino LLC is eager to serve you and your family.

We’re proud to provide all of our clients with peace of mind that their estate is always protected. And if you do go through probate, we’ll also be there to provide insights and guidance only developed from years of experience in the practice area.

You’ve worked hard to secure your financial status. Now make sure your legacy lives on. Contact Webster & Garino LLC to schedule a legal consultation today.

Contact Webster & Garino LLC Today

Don’t get blindsided by unexpected probate scenarios, such as excessive court fees. Choose Webster & Garino LLC for all your probate needs in Indiana. We’ve provided clients in Westfield, Indiana, and the surrounding area with quality probate, estate planning, and family law services since 2017. Our firm is founded on exemplary customer service and friendly, compassionate solutions.