Helping Your Grieving Parent


Losing a loved one is never easy, especially when it is one of your parents. How can you comfort your surviving parent while dealing with your own grief? It is good to remember that everyone grieves differently and that losing a spouse is different than losing a parent. Do not assume that you know exactly how your parent feels. Try to be understanding and patient by listening to your parent and encouraging him to talk about his loved one. Help attend to your parent’s physical needs and make sure he gets the care he needs.

It may be difficult to do these things as you deal with your own loss. You may feel frustrated as you try to help your parent move on with his life. Or perhaps you are struggling to let go and resent your parent for giving away clothes or other memorabilia. In either situation, tensions can arise and drive you apart at a time when comfort and support is needed most. Here are some tips to handle this situation as successfully as possible:

  • Take care of your physical health. Make sure you and your parent get plenty of rest, eat nutritious meals, and exercise regularly. Taking care of the body’s physical needs and staying healthy will help your body handle the emotional stress better. Because grief is stressful, it can impair the immune system, resulting in more colds or lingering illnesses. Keep an eye on your parent’s health and make sure his doctor knows about his bereavement.
  • Be patient and understanding. Grief will diminish with time but could take a year or more. Even though it may have diminished, your parent will have good days and bad days. Your parent may hear a song, see a picture, or find a note that resurfaces his grief all over again. Emotions often resurface at holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. Try to remember these important dates and acknowledge how your parent feels at these times. He might want to do something special to honor his loved or prefer to do nothing at all. In some cases, grief is delayed and does not surface until some time after the death. Whatever the situation, being patient and understanding will be the best way to lovingly help your parent.
  • Know the signs of grief. The initial months after your parent’s death may not be the best time for your surviving parent to make important decisions or start new projects. Often times, grief can cause a person to be forgetful and disorganized. You might suggest that your parent write down reminders so as not to forget, or you might help him plan a schedule to get the daily necessities taken care of. It might be difficult for your parent to concentrate so warn him to be careful when driving or operating dangerous equipment. Your parent might suffer from a lack of motivation or interest in doing things. Let your parent express himself and offer love and support. If you think your parent might hurt himself or that he is using alcohol or drugs to deal with his grief, get professional help immediately.
  •  Take care of yourself. You may have to take on more responsibility in caring for your surviving parent or helping with paperwork. Remember to take time for your own grief. Talk with close friends or family members about your grief and your needs. Express your feelings and encourage your parent to do the same; you may feel better sharing tears and feelings with your parent rather than alone. If your emotions are overwhelming, you might seek professional help.

In such an emotionally difficult time, it can be challenging to take care of the paperwork side of the death. You may be overseeing the funeral arrangements or your deceased parent’s estate. Our attorneys understand that losing a loved one is a difficult process. We can help guide you through and demystify the administration process.


What is a Bequest?


A bequest is a gift made through a Last Will and Testament. Your personal property can include things like your money, jewelry, or furniture. The beneficiary of the bequest (who is benefiting or receiving the bequest) can be an individual (such as a family member or friend) or an organization (such as a charity or for-profit business). There are generally five types of bequests:

Pecuniary: A gift of a fixed amount of money.

Specific: A gift of a designated or specific item. At times, such as when the item is given to an organization, the item is sold and the proceeds given to the beneficiary. 

Residuary: A gift of all or a portion of the remaining estate assets after all other bequests have been made and debts and taxes paid.

Contingent: A gift made on the condition of a certain event that may or may not happen. If the condition is not met, the gift will fail and not be made to the beneficiary. 

Charitable: A gift made serving a religious, scientific, political, educational, or general social purpose. A charitable bequest can reduce the estate taxes owed at your death.

Bequests are common ways to leave a lasting legacy to your family or charity. Our experienced estate planning attorneys would be happy to help you create a Last Will and Testament that reflects your wishes and leaves a legacy.


Country Star Glen Campbell Dies of Alzheimer’s

glen campbell

Glen Campbell, country star in the 1960s-70s and known for his music and comedy variety show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS, died on August 8 due to Alzheimer’s. Campbell made history by winning four Grammys in the country and pop categories in 1967. He sang such songs as “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Galveston,” and “Wichita Lineman.” Campbell also appeared in a supporting role in the film True Grit (1969) and sang the title song for the film. Sadly, in 2011, Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Rather than retreating, Campbell bravely went on a farewell tour in 2011-12 that dealt with his illness and decline.

This tour was the subject of an award-winning 2014 documentary titled “Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me.” The film documented his decline with Alzheimer’s, how his band supported him on stage when he forgot the chords and how his fans finished the song when he forgot the lyrics. Despite his illness, Campbell remained happy and upbeat. His family became his caregivers, and the film shows how the family helped Campbell navigate places that had once been familiar to him, such as his home, the stage, and the recording studio. 

Campbell courageously advocated for Alzheimer’s awareness and helped to remove some of the stigma associated with the disease. After the film aired, Director James Keach said people came up to him “who had family members or themselves had Alzheimer’s who said, ‘I no longer feel ashamed.'” His daughter, band mate, and caregiver, Ashley Campbell, said she was glad her father’s honesty about Alzheimer’s helped so many people to “not feel so alone.”

More than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, and every 66 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s. You can help advance Alzheimer’s support, care, and research by participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.


Source: ABC News “Glen Campbell’s Public Alzheimer’s Battle Set His Legacy” by Kristin M. Hall

Nine Things to Know Before Going to a Funeral Home


Things to think about when going to a funeral home:

  1. You can pre-plan without pre-paying.

Pre-planning your funeral and making final arrangements in advance is a great idea. It helps your family make difficult decisions during an emotional time. It can also give you peace of mind knowing that things are in order. However, it is not always necessary to pre-pay when you pre-plan your funeral. If you decide to pre-pay, be sure to look carefully at the contract and familiarize yourself with local and state laws.

  1. You can rent a cremation urn or casket for the memorial service.

Most funeral homes offer rentals that you can use for the funeral or memorial services. This can save on the costs of a casket or an urn from the funeral home. It can also save you on costly overnight shipping charges if you order a casket or urn online. You can often rent a high-end attractive casket for the public service without the high costs attached. You can then have the body buried in a less costly container or taken to the crematorium for cremation.

  1. Ask the funeral home for low-cost options.

Simply ask if they have more budget-friendly casket or urn options that fit your needs. By being upfront about what you want and need, the funeral home can better help you find a casket or urn that is suitable for you and your family.

  1. You can use an “alternative container” for cremation.

There is no law that you must use an urn or casket for cremation. Every provider of cremation services is required to tell you that alternative containers (such as cardboard) are available. Or perhaps you have a special container that you would like to use for cremation rather than purchasing an urn.

  1. Veterans with honorable discharge can get free burial services.

The National Cemetery Administration of the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs offers offers free burial and other services (such as perpetual care and personalized headstones) to veterans and their spouses. The funeral related services are pre-specified and generally only apply to burial at a national cemetery. To see if this may work for your situation, you can visit

  1. Ask for a price list for all services.

Many funeral homes offer packages designed to help you save when purchasing a variety of services. However, these packages may have services that you do not want. If you ask, funeral homes are required to provide an itemized pricing list for all services they offer. You can even do this over the phone, as consumer protection laws require that the funeral home provide funeral costs over the phone. It may be cheaper to pay only for the services you want and need rather than purchasing a package.

  1. Most services are optional.

You may be uncertain about what you really need. Or perhaps the wide array of options offered makes you feel like purchasing more services than necessary. Whatever the situation, remember that almost all services offered by the funeral home are optional.

  1. You can receive a written statement of costs before you pay.

It may be a good idea to ask the funeral home to provide you with a written statement and explanation of all costs associated with the funeral, burial, and/or cremation services you have chosen. This is helpful to make you sure you are not choosing services or products you do not want.

  1. Bring a friend.

It is a good idea to bring a friend with you as you are shopping for and deciding on funeral options. If you bring a friend who was not as close to the decedent, they can give helpful opinions that are not based on emotion.


Transfer on Death and Pay on Death Designations

TOD account

“Transfer on death” (TOD) and “pay on death” (POD) accounts are your property and completely in your control during your life. At your death, they are paid or transferred to the persons you name as the recipients. No one other than you has any right to this property during your life. The property passes outside of probate to the named recipient, rather than the person listed in your Will or your heirs, when you die. You can change the beneficiaries on these accounts at any time. Real estate and personal property such as furnishings and automobiles can be transferred on death by a Deed, bill of sale, or other proper written instrument.

Payable-on-death bank accounts offer an option to keep money out of probate – just fill out a simple form at the bank naming the person you want to inherit the money in the account at your death. As long as you are alive, the person you named does not have any rights to the account. You can spend the money, name a different beneficiary, or close the account. At your death, your named beneficiary can go to the bank with proof of identity and your death certificate and receive the funds. If the bank account is joint, the pay-on-death designation does not come into play until after the death of the joint owner. Also, your retirement accounts (such as 401(k)s and IRAs) give you the option to name a beneficiary, which act the same as a pay-on-death designation.

Indiana has adopted a law (Uniform Transfer-on-Death Securities Registration Act) that allows you to name a beneficiary to inherit your stocks, bonds, or brokerage accounts. When you register ownership, you make a request to take ownership in “beneficiary form.” The beneficiary will have no rights to the stock, bond, etc. as long as you are alive. After your death, the beneficiary you named can claim the securities. Similarly, you can name someone to inherit your vehicle by indicating a beneficiary on your certificate of registration. With real estate, you can sign a Transfer on Death deed that will transfer the real estate to whom you name at your death.

VLP Receives Pro Bono Service Award


The Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana received a pro bono service award in recognition of its bankruptcy program. The award was presented to the VLP at the 66th Annual 7th Circuit Bar Association meeting held in Indianapolis on May 1. The bankruptcy panel that received the award comprises over 25 attorneys committed to helping people without adequate funds achieve equal access to quality legal representation.

The award presentation and dinner was held at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis in conjunction with the 7th Circuit Judicial Conference. Attendees were honored to hear the following featured speakers: Hon. Elena Kagan, Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the United States and Eva Mozes Kor, survivor of the Holocaust and founder of the CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center. Ms. Ruth de Wit, Executive Director of the Volunteer Lawyer Program, gratefully accepted this prestigious award on behalf the volunteers and in recognition of the countless hours of pro bono service provided over many years in Northeast Indiana.

The Volunteer Lawyer Program of Northeast Indiana serves families and individuals at 200% or below the federal poverty guidelines in many areas of civil law. Over 200 volunteer attorneys representing northeast Indiana make up the panels of legal expertise, including our very own Tracy Troyer and Leah Good. Tracy and Leah specifically help individuals in services of estate administration, estate planning, and guardianship.

Those seeking assistance from the VLP must first call the office to see if they qualify for the program. Qualification is based on household income and assets, case type, and availability of volunteer attorneys. Callers should be prepared to provide this personal financial information when they call.  Once a client qualifies for the program, he/she will need to provide the VLP with the necessary financial and legal documents required for the successful completion of the qualification process. Staff members from the VLP then attempt to place the client with a volunteer attorney.

For more information, check out their website.

Changing Your Will


When you create a Will, it is not a permanent document that you can never change. This is good because our lives change often – we have children, grandchildren, marriages, divorces, births, deaths, etc. Your Will can be revised, or replaced if needed. If you need to change just a specific portion of your Will, you may decide to create a codicil to your Will. A codicil is a separate legal document that adds to your existing Will. Sometimes, though, you may have many changes to make to your Will. In this case, it may be best to replace your Will with a new one.

Some people make specific bequests in their Will, meaning that they leave specific property (such as a boat or jewelry) to someone. However, if the named property is missing from your estate, then it is considered “adeemed.” Ademption statutes govern the distribution of your belongings, and the state will take over if items are missing. It is best to update your Will if you sell, lose, or destroy property named in your Will. If a beneficiary named in your Will dies before you do, this might create a lapse situation depending on the language of your Will. It is best to specifically state in your Will where the property will go if the beneficiary dies before you, such as to the beneficiary’s children or to the residuary estate. If you have no specific provision for this situation, Indiana provides that any lapsed bequest will go into the residuary estate.


Insurance After You’re Gone

Life insurance

As with Wills and Trusts, there are many variations when it comes to insurance. The following are types of life insurance:

Whole Life: Sometimes called cash-value life insurance. You pay a monthly premium on a policy that will, upon your death, pay a predetermined fixed amount of money to your beneficiaries. A portion of the fixed premium is invested and another portion placed into an account that is accessible to the policy owner. It can be borrowed against as a loan, or the cash can be taken as the proceeds of the policy instead of the death benefit payout.

Universal Life: A type of whole life policy that guarantees a minimum return but the value of the policy can go up or down. If the policy makes more money, the return might be high enough to cover your premium payments.

Joint first-to-die or second-to-die: This is a policy held by two people, and the beneficiary is paid after the first person or second person dies. You decide the payout when you set the terms of the policy.

Term Life Insurance: This policy carries an annual premium and pays a specified death benefit to the beneficiary. However, it does not have a cash value so you cannot borrow money from it. The only payment is made to the beneficiary. The premium is based on the amount of insurance you purchase and how old you are. If you stop paying premiums, the death benefit is not paid.

Annual renewable: A policy that has an annual premium and can be renewed from year to year.

Decreasing: Premiums remain the same but benefit decreases over time.

Level: Coverage is guaranteed for a specific period of time or term at a specific premium.

Group: Employers frequently purchase a term life policy for each employee as an added benefit. Employees get a low rate and there is no income tax on the premiums for the first $50,000 of coverage.

Disclaimer of Interest in Property


In the law of inheritance, a disclaimer of interest is an attempt by a person to renounce his legal right to benefit from an inheritance (either under a Will or Trust or through intestacy). A disclaimer takes effect when the Will or Trust becomes irrevocable (generally at the grantor’s death) or upon the intestate’s death if there is no Will or Trust. A disclaimed interest will pass according to any provision in the Will or Trust. If there is no provision for disclaimed interests, then the disclaimed interest will pass according to Senate Bill 371:

  • If the disclaimant is an individual, then the interest will pass as if the disclaimant had died before the decedent.
  • If the interest would pass to the descendants of the disclaimant, then the interest will pass to the surviving descendants.
  • If the interest would pass to the estate of the disclaimant, then the interest will pass to the surviving descendants. If there are no surviving descendants, then the interest will become part of the residue.
  • If the disclaimant is not an individual, then the interest will pass as if the disclaimant did not exist.
  • If the disclaimed interest arose as a part of intestacy, then the interest will pass as if the disclaimant had died before the decedent.

The Bill has amended its provision for disclaimed interests of a transfer on death property:

  • If the disclaimant is an individual, then the interest will pass as if the disclaimant had died before the decedent.
  • If the disclaimant is not an individual, then the interest will pass as if the disclaimant did not exist.

If you have been appointed as Executor for a decedent’s estate, our attorneys can assist you in administering the estate – legally and efficiently.


Case Study: Paternity and Heirship


A recent Indiana court case addressed the issue of paternity related to heirship. In the case, Kimberly was born to Linda who was unmarried at the time. Kimberly’s birth certificate did not list a father. Linda married Lloyd in 1974, who executed two affidavits: one an Affidavit of Legitimation, in which he attested that he was Kimberly’s natural father, and two an Affidavit Requesting Amendment, in which he requested that his name be placed on Kimberly’s birth certificate as her father. Lloyd and Linda divorced two years later. Linda did not participate in the proceeding other than to sign a document stating that there were no children born of the marriage.

Several years later, Lloyd died intestate (without a Will). Kimberly and Lloyd’s two sisters filed competing petitions for the issuance of letters of administration in Lloyd’s estate. The sisters also filed a petition to determine heirship and a petition for genetic testing. The trial court denied the petition for genetic testing and, after bench trial on heirship, entered judgment in favor of Kimberly as the sole heir of Lloyd’s estate.

The sisters appealed but the Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision. First, the Court noted that an order requiring genetic testing is only part of a paternity action. Because the sisters were not seeking to establish paternity, they had no right to petition the trial court to order genetic testing. Rather, the sisters were seeking to contest Kimberly’s claim of heirship. This claim is governed by an Indiana statute that provides for two conditions: 1. the presumed father marries the mother of the child, and 2. the presumed father acknowledges the child to be his own. The burden of proof rests on the child seeking to inherit from the presumed father to prove these conditions. The record was replete with evidence supporting the trial court’s judgment in favor of Kimberly. Lloyd had married Linda, the mother of Kimberly and he had filed two affidavits attesting that he was Kimberly’s natural father. Therefore, the Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s decision to enter judgment in favor of Kimberly.