When you reach eighteen (18) years of age in Indiana, you can legally contract and execute asset protection and estate planning such as a Last Will and Testament, a Trust, Healthcare Representative, Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will, gifting, and to designate beneficiaries on accounts, life insurance, and retirement plans. Most clients I see are couples with minor children, middle aged clients, or the elderly. Usually there is a “trigger” that prompts them to accelerate their estate/asset concerns.
Some examples of triggers are a change in their lives such as birth/death of a child/grandchild, either healthy or special needs; taking a vacation; desire now for charitable bequests; a recent diagnosis of a disease or progression of current condition or disease; death of spouse; change of tax or probate laws; signs of dementia or other cognitive issues; heirs having life issues such as a gambling or alcohol/drug abuse; heirs in an abusive relationship or fragile marriage; client or heirs involved in potential or current litigation; or just a falling out with a heir.
Another major trigger seen in the elder law field, and for revisiting your estate plans, is when you have a client, or their spouse, who needs help at home, or are in, or headed into long-term care such as assisted living or a nursing home. Estate planning will expand into more areas such as asset protection both when client(s) feel we have time in advance to do planning, or the crisis case when folks need help now for their activities of daily living, or will need help soon. A good Durable Power of Attorney executed while a client is competent and has capacity is crucial; if not, usually a guardianship will have to be filed in Court and the client(s) is at the mercy of a Court on whether it will allow asset protection planning at that point.
Estate planning and asset protection are very fact sensitive based on clients’ goals and factoring in their family dynamics, age, health, and their overall financial situation. I always recommend that you think about these things even if there is not a trigger and to plan ahead. It is never too late to act and get your wishes and life and estate plans in writing, and to protect your hard earned life savings.