“When you talk about estate planning, most people have the same goals,” Batesville attorney Doug Wilson told about 70 attendees at an Oct. 17 meeting organized by Ripley County Extension Homemakers and the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service office in Ripley County. “They want to make sure when they pass away, their assets are handled” in the way they desired.
What is an estate? “Everything you own” is Wilson’s answer – a home, bank accounts, Individual Retirement Accounts, investment accounts, equipment, cars, other real estate. “When you start adding it up, most people have more than they think.”
One lady told the attorney, “I don’t have very much.” She lived in a mobile home, but it turns out the client owned the land it sat on plus another farm, totalling $1.5 million in assets. “We’re not all that fortunate, but we are surprised sometimes” at the values of items when inventoried.
Everyone needs estate planning, not just the elderly. If both young parents are killed in vehicle accident, “who will take care of the children?” Wilson asked.
Estate planning is one area where procrastination is ill advised. “You’ve got to plan when you can. You can’t wait until you need it to plan.”
He detailed six common estate plans:
• Creating a will. A will names an executor and designates “who you want to receive your assets.” The attorney emphasized, “If you remember nothing else tonight, remember this: Title equals result.” He elaborated, “Your will does not control assets that are titled in joint ownership … Your will also doesn’t control items where you have named a beneficiary,” such as an IRA, life insurance policy, annuity or a transfer-on-death bank or brokerage account. When asked the cost, the attorney reported he recently completed two wills and two living wills for a couple for $125. A woman asked whether a will could be broken. “If you are competent when you write that will … as long as you made that will without being under duress … your will is valid. It’s very, very hard to set aside a will.” Wilson has seen it happen once in his 34 years of practice.