WILLS & ESTATES

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A Will is a writing prepared in the form required by law that gives away property at your death. A Will may also appoint an Executor or a Guardian or establish a Trust.

An Estate is the property someone owns. The property may be land, houses, bank accounts, cash, stocks, bonds, and all property or rights in property. A probate estate is property of a dead person which is administered by an executor or an administrator.

WHAT IS A WILL?
A Will is a writing prepared in the form required by law that gives away property at your death. A Will may also appoint an Executor or a Guardian or establish a Trust. Wills are very complicated and this website does not cover everything to know about wills. Please call (270) 754-5502 for a free appointment.

WHY SHOULD I MAKE A WILL?
It is important to have a will because without a will the state will divide your property among your blood relatives according to state law. A will allows you to give away your property in the manner you decide is best for you.

A Will only becomes effective with the death of the person making the will.

WHEN SHOULD I REVISE MY WILL?
It is not uncommon for a person to make several Wills during a lifetime as the people he needs to provide for and their needs change over the years. Marriage, divorce, and birth of a child can alter a Will.

WHAT IS A CODICIL?
A codicil is a written document which changes or supplements a will. Codicils are used for simple changes. However, if changes are complicated, it is usually best to do a new will.

WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF AN EXECUTOR?
An Executor is the person who sees that your wishes in the Will are carried out. The Executor selects the lawyer to probate the Will and handle the estate. The lawyer will do the legal work and the Executor will manage the estate property, pay the debts and taxes, and sell or transfer property to the heirs and upon court approval, make a distribution to heirs.

WHAT ARE THE DUTIES OF A GUARDIAN?
A Guardian is the person who is responsible for taking care of the personal needs and financial needs of children under the age of 18. In selecting a Guardian, you probably want to choose a close relative.

WHAT IS A TESTAMENTARY TRUST?
The will can appoint a Trustee to hold and use property for the benefit of someone such as a minor child, young person, spendthrift, or incompetent. The trust may provide the property be used for a particular purpose, such as education or support. A trust may be used to prevent an ex-husband or ex-wife from having control of the money you leave your minor child. There are other benefits to having a trust not listed here.

DOES A WILL AFFECT LIFE INSURANCE PAYABLE TO MY NAMED BENEFICIARY?
No. Life insurance is paid to the named beneficiary or the named alternate beneficiary regardless of what the Will says.

However, if there is no named beneficiary or the named beneficiary in the will is deceased or the insurance is payable to the person making the will or his estate, then the Will does determine who receives the insurance.

DOES A WILL AFFECT SURVIVORSHIP PROPERTY?
A Will does not control the ownership of survivorship property. Survivorship property goes to the survivor.

Most, but not all, deeds contain language such as "John Smith and his wife, Susie Smith, or the survivor of them" or "jointly with right of survivorship" or similar language. Bank accounts in which the names are separated by the word "or" are considered joint property. Placing property in survivorship may have the unintended effect of altering the effect of a Will.

WHERE SHOULD I KEEP MY WILL?
Once you have made a will, it is important to keep the signed original in a safe place such as your safe deposit box or your bank's will box.

Our office will have a copy of the will, but usually only the signed original is valid.

WHAT IS A DISABILITY POWER-OF-ATTORNEY?
This document allows you to designate a person to act on your behalf. It becomes effective now and continues if you become unable to manage your own business affairs and see to your health care.

WHAT IS A LIVING WILL?
This documents directs to your doctor what your wishes as to health care including life support or if you wish to designate a person to be in charge of these choices.

WHAT IS AN ESTATE?
An estate is the property someone owns. The property may be land, houses, bank accounts, cash, stocks, bonds, and all property or rights in property. A probate estate is property of a dead person which is administered by an executor or an administrator.

DO I NEED A LAWYER TO DO AN ESTATE?
YES. Even a small estate needs to be done by a lawyer. As the executor or administrator of an estate you are required to pay debts and divide money and property according to state law. If you fail to do so, you are responsible. The judge or clerk is not allowed to give you legal advice or help you prepare papers. They have their own jobs to do. It is a crime for a non-lawyer to help you fill out papers or give advice, because he may give you bad advice.

This website has enough information to get you in trouble. Lawyer fees are more reasonable that you may believe.

HOW ARE A PERSON'S PROPERTY, DEBTS, AND FINANCIAL AFFAIRS TAKEN CARE OF ?
If a person dies with a will, then the person appointed to handle his affairs, usually the person designated in the will as executor petitions the court to be executor. If there is no will, then a family member or other person can petition the court to be appointed administrator. If there is a will, it is probated or proven in court. If there is no will, any family member or other person can petition the court to be appointed an administrator.

The executor or administrator's job is to gather and safeguard the property of the deceased, pay debts, taxes and claims against the estate and if necessary, turn real estate or personal property into cash. The executor then distributes any remaining money in accordance with the terms of the will and law. If there is no will, the administrator distributes the money to the deceased blood relatives in a plan set up by state law.

The executor or administrator must provide a preliminary report of the deceased property called an inventory. The executor or administrator must obtain court approval before he pays the heirs the petition for the appointment of an executor or administrator, the inventories, the final settlement and many other papers are required to be filed with the court clerk. The papers filed with a court clerk are a public record and may be examined by anyone. Executors or administrators may incur financial or criminal responsibility for failure to properly perform their duties.

Because the duties are complicated and depend upon the will, the financial circumstances, debts, claims, and state law, you will need a lawyer to figure out what to do in an estate.

WHAT IF SOMEONE PASSES AWAY WITHOUT LEAVING A WILL?
A relative or other person can apply to court to be appointed as administrator. He must give notice in advance to all the deceased heirs.

WHAT ABOUT THE DEBTS THAT ARE OWED AT THE TIME OF DEATH?
Estate property is used to pay debts. Just being an heir or beneficiary does not make you responsible for paying debts.

WHAT IS THE WIDOW'S/SURVIVING CHILDREN EXEMPTION?
The widow or widower, or if there is no widow or widower the surviving children can claim a $15,000 exemption in unencumbered personal property free of other debt.

WHAT TYPES OF DEATH TAXES ARE THERE?
Federal Estate Tax - This tax does not apply to estates of less than $1,000,000, including certain transfers made during the decedent's life, so most estates pay nothing. For estates of this amount or approaching this amount, then taxes are an extremely important consideration as the tax rate begins at about 33% and goes even higher. This website is not intended to cover such estates in which a plan to minimize taxes is of extreme importance.

Kentucky Inheritance Tax -This is a tax on the gift to each beneficiary, except a surviving spouse, parent child, grandchild, great-child, step-child, brother or sister of the deceased. Other relatives are taxed at a beginning rate of 4% continuing upward slowly. The amount is usually such a small percentage of the estate that tax planning is not nearly as important as transferring property to people that need to be protected.



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This website is for informational purposes only. The law is too complicated to be fully explained in any website. The law must be applied to the particular circumstances at hand. All information is based on Kentucky law.

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