Throughout the United States, a growing number of teachers are taking Covid-19 related safety precautions for the upcoming school year. For now, K-12 schools in Indiana are slated to reopen this fall without state mandates on wearing masks. Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases continue to rise, which places teachers at greater risk if in-person classes resume. Although teachers generally look forward to getting back into the classroom, many have grown fearful of the worst and have begun getting their wills in order. This has led many to wonder about what a will does. Here’s a quick rundown of wills and what you can do if you need one in Indiana.
What Is A Will?
A last will and testament – commonly known as a will – is a legal document which basically lays out instructions for what to do with your assets when you die. Think of things like bank accounts, furniture, jewelry, and any other property which is titled in your name or your estate when you die. By making a will, you – a person of sound mind who is at least 18, otherwise known as the testator – are choosing to have these assets distributed according to your instructions. The person who is responsible for carrying out your will – known as the executor – has the responsibility to take care of the administration of your estate.
Particularly, the assets in your name at your death are distributed according to a legal process called probate in Indiana. This is where the court will oversee the accumulation of your assets, payment of debts and distributions to beneficiaries.
Theoretically, almost any asset can be distributed by will, including bank accounts, vehicles, homes and even businesses. In reality, many assets are either titled in a trust or they get transferred to beneficiaries directly, bypassing a will altogether. For example, many bank accounts are TOD or POD, in which case you make someone a beneficiary of the account. With retirement accounts, for example, you might name your children as your beneficiaries. Or perhaps, like many people who have estate plans, you have a revocable living trust which is already the owner of bank and investment accounts, your residence and your personal property.
There are many reasons why it makes more sense to use a trust and other beneficiary designations versus just having your assets distributed according to a will. One of the most important reasons is avoiding probate. Also, you could have your estate assets flow into a revocable trust according to your will through what is known as a pour-over will.
What If I Have No Will?
Dying without a will – known as being intestate – results in the State of Indiana distributing your assets according to a scheme. If you are married and your children are from your marriage, then your spouse gets 50% and your children get 50%. If you are married but do not have children, your spouse gets it all, unless one of your parents is alive in which case the spouse gets 75% and your parent gets 25%. If you are not married but have kids, then they will receive it all. And If you die without a spouse or children, then it goes to your parents, siblings, or other family members. If no family, Indiana becomes the owner.
Creating Or Revoking A Will
Wills have to be written and signed before you die, and they must be witnessed by two people, one who also signs it. Changes to the will also require these formalities. To revoke your will, you could simply destroy it or execute another one – but it is best to run your thoughts by an estate planning attorney first. For more than two decades, the attorneys at Hawkins Elder Law have helped countless clients with estate plans that are tailored to their specific needs and which provide for the effective management of their assets. Founders Jennifer J. Hawkins and Jeff R. Hawkins are Board Certified Indiana Trust and Estate Lawyers, certified by the Trust and Estate Specialty Board. If you or a loved one is thinking of Medicaid to cover nursing home care costs whether now or in the future, feel free to consult with Hawkins Elder Law at (812) 268-8777 today.
About the Authors
Jeff R. Hawkins and Jennifer J. Hawkins co-author the Hawkins Elder Law blog with Thomas E. Hynes, a lawyer who is admitted in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida with a background in estate planning and elder law.
Jeff and Jennifer Hawkins are Trust & Estate Specialty Board Certified Indiana Trust & Estate Lawyers. They are also active members of the Indiana State Bar Association and National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Both lawyers are admitted to practice law in Indiana, and Jeff Hawkins is admitted to practice law in Illinois.
Jeff is a Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the Indiana Bar Foundation. He is also a member of the Illinois State Bar Association and the Indiana Association of Mediators. He served as the 2014-15 President of the Indiana State Bar Association, and he is a registered civil mediator.
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