Planning your estate
Planning your estate is important in ensuring that your family and friends understand your wishes. Below you will find a list of common estate planning tools that our attorneys can help walk you through and prepare:
The Last Will and Testament is probably one of the most familiar estate planning documents, and it instructs your Executor (or Executrix if female) how you wish your assets disbursed after your death.
You can make specific bequests of personal property (e.g. jewelry, furniture, vehicles, etc.), real property (e.g. house, farm, etc.), or sums of money. Bequests can be made to individuals or organizations, though it is very important to ensure that the correct organization name is given. You may wish to include an alternate recipient should the organization no longer exist upon your death. Our attorneys can help you think through the most common scenarios and how to best achieve disbursement of your assets per your desires.
Should you fail to have a Last Will and Testament, then your assets will be divided according to Kentucky statutes, which may not be in the best interest of your loved ones. Contact us today to start the process!
Also a Last Will and Testament should not be confused with your Last Wishes. Your Last Wishes dictate to your family what kind of service you desire, how you want to be buried, and etc. Often a Last Will and Testament is not opened or found until after the service/burial. It’s important to talk with your family about these matters.
Probates are Court actions in which your Last Will is presented to the Court and your Executor is appointed to administrate your estate. This process allows your Executor to sign documents, which can transfer property and vehicles as you direct in your Will.
At the end of the probate process, all personal property and money will have been disbursed in accordance with your Will, and all property, bills, accounts, and etc. will no longer be in your name.
A Power of Attorney names an attorney in fact who can execute documents on your behalf. These documents can range from bank cheques to contracts to tax documents to deeds of conveyance.
This allows your attorney in fact to act on your behalf and manage your affairs in the case that you become mentally disabled or otherwise incapacitated. In these cases, the Power of Attorney is considered to be durable, that is that it is still valid even if you are no longer mentally able to make decisions. However, your Power of Attorney ceases to be valid upon your death.
If you do not have an attorney in fact and become mentally disabled, then a Guardianship action will have to be initiated in Court, which is described below.
Appointing an attorney in fact is important no matter what stage of life you are in. Accidents, medical problems, and other debilitating events can happen without warning leaving your family and friends unable to handle your affairs.
In the case that no attorney in fact has been appointed for someone and they become unable to make their own decisions, a family member, friend or other interested party must speak with the County Attorney to begin the Guardianship process, which is a Court action that ends in a jury trial.
Guardianship actions add unnecessary burdens on your family and friends that could be solved by a properly executed Power of Attorney. The Court action tends to take two to three months, minimum, to resolve, and the Petitioner is required to pay whatever costs and fees necessary to file the action.
A conservator can also be appointed for an individual who has the responsibility of overseeing that person’s financial affairs. Often the Court will appoint the same person as Guardian and Conservator, allowing them to make necessary medical and financial decisions.
A Health Care Surrogate and Living Will (often a combined document) instructs doctors, hospitals, and other medical facilities about who they can release information to regarding your medical status, as well as who is responsible for making your health care decisions should you be unable to make those choices for yourself.
A Living Will specifically instructs physicians regarding what kinds of treatment you want and don’t want, such as life support. Should there be no chance of recovery or substantial improvement and should you be unconscious or otherwise incapacitated, your Living Will would instruct your appointed surrogate and your doctors to cease all life saving measures.
These documents are different from a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR) in that they deal with long term medical care questions and not emergency, extraordinary life saving measures.
Trusts are an important asset planning tool that can help protect your assets from federal estate taxes and avoid a probate action in Court upon your death. A revocable trust (or sometimes called a Living Trust) is a trust that is created during your lifetime and can be canceled at any time before your death; an irrevocable trust, on the other hand, cannot be canceled and will only cease when the terms of the trust are carried out in full or if there are no assets left in the trust, which in some cases can only be done by Court action.
A Testamentary Trust, which is created in your Last Will and Testament, is often utilized when your children are under a certain age and allows your named Trustee to manage whatever assets have been passed to them. Our attorneys can help advise if this would be beneficial in your case.
If you wholly or partly own a business, it is important to plan what will happen to your interest in that business upon your disability or death. From important tax implications to day-to-day business operations, our attorneys can help create a plan by which your families and business partners can continue operations.
Our tax attorneys can help direct you in plan for your estate’s taxes, minimizing the burden to your family. In addition, we prepare state inheritance tax returns and can help make sure that all the necessary final tax returns are submitted. Contact us for more information.