Business Spotlight: Rice & Rice Estate Planning

By+Kathy Jonas

Would you consider putting off taking medication to help lower your blood pressure? Probably not. Preventative medicine is a widely accepted way to take action now to avoid serious health issues as you age. Yet, when it comes to protecting your financial assets and the quality of life at the end of life, most people worry, but do nothing to prevent problems. According to the American Bar Association, 55 percent of Americans die without a will or an estate plan. 

“You know what they say about an ounce of prevention,” says Clifford Rice of Rice & Rice Elder Law and Estate Planning, located in Granger. “Spending money now could save you tens of thousands of dollars down the road.” While the term “estate planning” sounds complicated, and it can be, Rice says, “Many things in our world are complicated, like buying a home or paying taxes; however, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be done, especially if you have experts helping you. Putting your estate in order now will make things easier for your family during a difficult time.”

 

Some common questions about estate planning:

 

Don’t you need to have a lot of money to require proper estate planning?  

While needs may differ, Rice says that regardless of the amount of wealth, nearly all people have situations that require attention and specialized legal expertise. 

Aren’t online forms all you need to get this accomplished?  

Yes, you can obtain forms online, but they will not be customized to your specific needs as would be done by a licensed attorney. They also might not reflect sometimes complicated statutes or more recent changes in the law. 

All attorneys are the same so can’t you easily use your nephew who just graduated from law school and is working as a criminal defense attorney?  

Attorneys trained in this particular area will help you navigate the complexities and nuances of Indiana or Michigan law. Rice, for example, has been practicing for 44 years and limits his practice to estate planning, business planning, elder law, Medicaid law and living trusts.

If you have a will, you don’t need any other kind of documents, correct?

As with most things, it depends. Finding an attorney you trust who can evaluate your particular situation and explain the law to you so you can move forward in whatever way you see fit, requires some time and thought. 

Once you’ve set up a trust, you never have to think about it again, right?

Rice & Rice recommends reviewing your trust periodically due to changes such as the loss of a family member, changes to beneficiaries, or a change in the power of attorney.

 

Estate planning does not have one clear definition. It varies from person to person. “The goal of an estate plan is to proactively arrange for the organization, protection and distribution of your assets in such a way that they benefit your designated beneficiaries in a way that you define,” according to Rice, who leads monthly estate planning seminars to help people understand this area of the law. Some reasons for estate planning include keeping a family farm, passing a valuable asset to another person or making sure there is sufficient income for a surviving spouse. 

Estate planning also can cover long-term care issues, such as health care power of attorney, avoiding guardianship, and strategies to help people remain at home rather than in a facility – the “what ifs” that keep people awake at night. End-of-life decision making is difficult to discuss, but doing so helps simplify what can become an emotional and painful process, according to Rice. These type of decisions might include discussions about living wills or a declaration regarding life-prolonging procedures. “Your wishes should be the basis for the decision,” Rice says. 

“It is not just for the rich,” Rice emphasized, adding, “It is suitable whether you have $50,000 or $5,000,000.” Preventative language can be included in documents to encompass the unexpected situations that can happen to families. Waiting until an illness occurs is not the easy way to go, according to Rice. “Ideally, we would like to see people five years before retirement,” he says.

 

Contact info: Rice & Rice Estate Planning has offices in Granger, Lafayette and Valparaiso. The practice has affiliations with the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the American Bar Association, the Indiana State Bar Association, the Michigan Bar Association, and the Illinois Forum of Estate Planning. For information, call 574-703-3222, 1-800-303-RICE or go to www.riceandrice.com



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