A last will and testament, commonly referred to as a will, is a document that exists to distribute wealth and assets to an estate. This includes the distribution of assets, guardianship of minor children and funeral or burial arrangements.
A will can be used as a stand-alone document to distribute an estate to the beneficiaries. This document then serves as the sole instruction as to how the estate is to be administered.
A will can also be used in conjunction with a trust. The trust is set up before or after a person’s death, funded and then managed by a trustee. When the person passes away, any assets that are subject to the trust are administered according to its terms. These assets could be distributed right away without the need for probate. They could also remain in the trust and be distributed gradually or following certain conditions.
Probate is the legal process by which a will is validated. Although a will has to be executed under specific state law requirements, a court still needs to approve it before any action can be taken. In Indiana, this court is the Probate Court.
After the court approves the document, it supervises the administration of the estate throughout the entire process to ensure that the deceased's wishes are followed in accordance with the applicable laws. There are various options in Indiana depending on the specifics of an estate, some involving more or less supervision. These options can be navigated with the help of a capable estate planning attorney.
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