Estate Planning

Estate Planning Checklist: The Basics of Planning for Life and Death

I.         EXECUTE YOUR PLANNING DOCUMENTS. Everyone who is eighteen or older should have at least a simple estate plan.

            A.        Durable Power of Attorney:  A power of attorney is a document which you, the principal, can sign giving another person, the  attorney in fact or agent, the authority to handle your affairs. All powers of attorney in Indiana are “durable,” unless you state otherwise.  “Durable” means simply that the power of attorney remains in effect even if you subsequently become incapacitated.  Choose from:

                        1.         Springing Power of Attorney: This type of power of attorney “springs” into effect only if you become incapacitated.  Your agent will need a doctor’s statement which indicates you are no longer able to manage your affairs in order for the document to be effective.

                        2.         Power of Attorney - effective on signing.  I recommend this type of Power of Attorney as privacy laws may prevent your agent from having access to your medical records.  If this is the case, a doctor will not be able to provide the agent with the medical certification needed for the springing Power of Attorney to be effective. 

            B.        Health Care Directive: You can create a comprehensive health care directive to include all of the following directives:

                        1.         Health Care Power of Attorney:  A power of attorney can also grant health care decision making authority to your attorney in fact.  However, the health care power of attorney should be done in conjunction with an appointment of health care representative in order to give the attorney in fact/representative full health care decision making powers.

                        2.         Appointment of Health Care Representative:  The Indiana Health Care Consent Law allows you to sign a document designating an individual who is authorized to make health care decisions in the event you become unable to make your own decisions.

                        3.         Living Will:  A living will is a document through which you express your wish to die naturally without the use of extraordinary life support measures if you are terminally ill or injured and your attending physician certifies in writing that your death will occur within a short time.

            C.        Documents or Designations Which Address the Disposition of Your Estate When You Die.

                        1.         Revocable Living Trust or Last Will and Testament

                        2.         Payable on Death (“POD”) or Transfer on Death (“TOD”) Designations on Accounts or Transfer on Death Deeds to transfer real estate interests to your beneficiaries upon your death.

                        3.         Joint bank accounts or jointly held real estate.  Beware the “Five Ds”:

                                    a.         Death of the joint owner

                                    b.         Disability of the joint owner

                                    c.         Divorce of the joint owner

                                    d.         Disaster which befalls the joint owner (e.g., the joint owner is sued as a result of an accident, and your account or real estate owned jointly with the individual is now at risk).

                                    e.         Dishonesty by the joint owner who has complete access to your account and takes all the money in the joint account.


            A.        Real Estate

            B.        Bank accounts, including checking, money market, savings, certificates of deposit, etc.

            C.        Brokerage accounts

            D.        Life insurance policies

            E.        Annuities

            F.         United States government savings bonds

            G.        Any other asset


            A.        Work with your financial planner to ensure you have sufficient resources to cover the cost of long term care.

            B.        Consider long term care insurance. The Indiana SHIP (State Health Insurance Assistance Program) at can provide valuable information to help you choose the right policy for you.

            C.        Look at the Indiana long term care insurance program (“Partnership Program’) to determine if it is right for you. The website for this program is


            A.        Federal Estate Tax for very large estates (The federal estate tax exemption is 5.45 million dollars per individual in 2016.)

            C.        Income Tax (such as on an Individual Retirement Account or 401K).