It is never easy to lose a loved one. Not only is there the emotional and physical loss, but there is also the anguish of dealing with the details of the passing of a parent, sibling, child, or other loved one. That is where an experienced and compassionate advisor, such as an attorney, can help. He or she will take the time to determine if the estate of a loved one needs to be probated (administered through a Court) and, if so, prepare the documents necessary for filing.  Such work includes the preparation and filing of notices, marshalling of assets, including retirement accounts, transferring or selling real estate, satisfying creditors and tax obligations, and distributing assets to heirs.  If the deceased died as a result of “wrongful death” (an accident caused by another), a skilled attorney can also assist in the filing of any claim against the wrongdoer or insurance company.

A lawyer can also meet with clients well before a death or misfortune occurs to draft necessary documents such as a will, durable power of attorney, living will, and healthcare representative designee documents. Clients with more substantial assets may want to consider establishing a trust to benefit themselves while alive, avoid the cost of probate when they pass, and expedite the transfer of assets to beneficiaries. Through new laws for smaller sized estates, real estate can now be transferred via transfer on death deeds and after death, through small estate affidavits, without the opening of an estate.  Clients with children who live with disabilities, addictions or unique circumstances, are wise to think out how to use a discretionary supplemental needs trust (special needs trust), testamentary trust or irrevocable trust.  

In estate planning, blended families with step-children sometimes have unique circumstances which necessitate the use of contract language protecting step-children from disinheritance.   Many times, for a small business, a business succession plan and perhaps, the purchase of life insurance and creation of a buy-sale plan agreement is wise to ensure liquidity when the business is dissolved or passed down to the next generation. 

In sum a skilled attorney can assist clients, when working with other professionals, to advise them on financial planning in anticipation of selling a family business, real property, or to assist with the next generation’s needs.  Good estate planning can usher in peace of mind and foster family harmony for all involved.

This article is created by Mark Hurt, an attorney with law offices at 522 Belvedere Drive, Suite 105, Kokomo, IN  46901; (765) 454-9600 and 14701 Cumberland Road, Suite 105, Noblesville, IN  46060 (317) 770-0547 and an email of

Matthew Tetrault