Get a Will!
Life has a way of throwing us unexpected curve balls. Weird things happen all the time. When things do not go as planned, we hopefully have a “Plan B” and maybe even a “Plan C” to help us readjust and continue toward our ultimate goals. What happens when the unexpected happens after someone has prematurely passed away? The resulting “mess” from that unexpected curve ball is now left to our loved ones to handle, as they try to develop that “Plan B.”
What “mess” could possibly exist after you pass away?
A common scenario that most people do not consider are the very complicated and often heartbreaking consequences involving the family home. Let’s consider an example. Say you and your spouse purchase a home together. The home is titled in both of your names as husband and wife so that if something happens to one of you, the other will automatically take full ownership of the home under Indiana law (See our other articles about the Estate By the Entireties). Years pass and you have a child to raise in the home you have purchased together. Eventually your child moves out, goes to college, gets married and begins an adult life of his or her own. Unfortunately, your child suffers an unexpected medical issue and passes away without ever having any children.
Heartbroken, you and your spouse continue on with life, but do not have any more children. Eventually you both retire and begin to enjoy your golden years in this beautiful home that you own. One day you pass away. You left no will, but thankfully under Indiana law your spouse is your heir and the house automatically transfers to the surviving spouse under the original terms of the deed. Everything worked out as best as can be excepted right?
Life for your spouse continues on as best as possible without you, but eventually they too pass away. No will was ever created for your spouse either as they did not own much except the house. Your spouse’s only surviving relatives are 3 siblings and a deceased sibling’s 4 children. One of the surviving siblings really wants the home and is willing to take over the maintenance and care immediately. The other 2 surviving siblings are willing to sign over their share of the home. Unfortunately, because there is no will identifying who should inherit the home and no official document was ever filed after you passed away transferring full title to your spouse, transferring title to the home now becomes complicated for the siblings.
Under Indiana law, all 7 people stand to inherit a portion of the home not just 3. Your spouse’s 3 surviving siblings each own a ¼ of the home and the deceased sibling’s ¼ share is now split evenly between their 4 children. Which means each of the deceased siblings children owns 1/8 of the home. In order, for the 1 sibling to be given the home the remaining 6 heirs must agree and sign over their shares, or the sibling must buy out the 6 remaining heirs.
In this type of situation, if no agreement is reached, the Probate Court can order the home sold and whatever money remains after all probate expenses and creditors are paid will then be split among the 7 heirs. When this happens, there is generally very little money ever received by the heirs. A family home that perhaps holds many memories for one, or all of the heirs is lost forever because an estate plan did not guide the Court as to the final wishes of the decedent.
This is often the unintended consequence when a person passes away without an estate plan. Loved ones are struggling to cope with the loss, while trying to handle the details of the loved one’s estate plan. Legally a court will follow Indiana law in it’s distribution of the estate, if no will or other estate planning documents exist. The wishes of the decedent are unknown and despite one or more heirs agreeing to a solution, if all do not agree, the court will only follow the rules.
If you or someone you know needs advice about your estate plan, please contact Griffith Xidias Law Group for a free consultation. Our phone number is (317) 663-0650, or email Patty Xidias, Esq., at firstname.lastname@example.org.