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By Rebecca Simpson, Partner
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Rebecca Simpson

Rebecca Simpson

Another school year has nearly come to a close, and kids are eager for the fun and freedom of summer.

For parents, however, balancing work, camps, childcare and vacation can prove complicated and stressful. These complications and stresses weigh particularly heavy upon parents who are separated or divorced. Coordinating schedules can create tension and conflict, making summer planning an enormous challenge.

While every family situation is unique, and no simple solutions exist to resolve all of the complications that can accompany raising children in separate homes, these “Six Rules of Summer” offer guidance regarding issues that commonly arise during summer co-parenting.

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By Leah Morrison, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Leah Morrison

Leah Morrison, attorney

One of the most frequent reasons clients tell me they want to create a will, trust, or other estate documents is to avoid probate. People have come to see probate as an unduly burdensome process that can cost a lot of money and time, but in Kentucky, it’s not as bad as you might fear.

Before we delve into it, let’s take a moment to review what probate is. Probate is the legal process by which the financial affairs of a deceased person are concluded. It is a court supervised process in which assets are accumulated and distributed in accordance with the decedent’s will or pursuant to the statutory plan of descent, and debts are gathered for payment. Although, in Kentucky, the supervision provided by the court is often times very minimal.

While Kentucky’s probate laws are sufficient to ensure the deceased person’s assets are properly managed and distributed to the appropriate person, the requirements of the probate process are minimal enough that most people navigate it smoothly without incident.

The one thing, though, to know is that probate does make your will public. Your will becomes a public document that is recorded in the court system, and is available to anyone who wishes to view it.

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By Heather Coleman Brooks
Attorney, English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Heather Coleman Brooks

Heather Coleman Brooks

Death and taxes. Both inevitable, both made easier when a plan is in place. You deal with your taxes annually, but how often do you consider whether you have made the proper plans for your estate?

If you do not have substantial assets, you may be wondering if it is really necessary for you to have a will. To decide if it is right for you, consider what happens if you fail to make a plan.

In Kentucky, if you die without a will, your assets will pass according to the laws of intestacy. The courts will divide your assets among your heirs according to the priorities directed by Kentucky statutes. Sometimes, this has unintended consequences.

 

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney and Partner
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

estate planWe’ve had lots and lots of questions about the new tax law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in late 2017. It is a large, complicated and sweeping bill that the average person may have some trouble deciphering, which is understandable. We wanted to tackle here what we see as one of the major benefits for those planning their estates: doubling the exemption for estate taxes.

If you’re looking to a solid guide to all of the tax law changes, read The Motley Fool’s take on it here.

In 2011, this base was set at $5 million, and it was indexed for inflation, meaning that you could leave up to $5 million (plus the adjustment for inflation) to your heirs and your estate would pay no estate tax. For tax year 2017, that amount was $5.49 million once adjusted for inflation.

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By Leah Morrison, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

trustsWhen it comes to planning to avoid or minimize Federal Estate tax, there are four (almost) magic words that frequently appear in trust documents: health, education, support and maintenance, known in the trust and estate law industry as HEMS. Outside of the tax advantages of including HEMS in a trust document, these words also impact the administration of the trust. When a trust includes HEMS language, beneficiaries from the trust may receive funds from the trust for those type of expenses, and those only.

A trustee is placed in charge of the trust. That trustee usually has broad latitude in determining how many distributions are made from the trust and in what amounts – but HEMS language is included to limit what those distributions may be used for. Trustees must ensure that the distributions fall under those categories. Trustees are often a lay person, and in many cases, a family member. This can make things particularly sticky and confusing, especially if there are disagreements among family members.

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tax booksEach year, the Treasury Department examines the cost of living in the U.S. and adjusts limitations for retirement plans and many other similar items that affect taxpayers throughout the U.S. As has happened previously, the Treasury raised the limits for contributions to pensions and other retirement plans such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s and most 457 plans.  All of this helps today’s workers save for retirement with pre-tax dollars, which is a tremendous benefit.

Our tax code requires the Secretary of the Treasury to make this adjustment.

The biggest news is that the contribution limit to employer-sponsored retirement plans, such as the above-mentioned 401(k)s, etc., has gone from $18,000 for calendar 2017 to $18,500 for calendar 2018. If you were bumping up against this limit in 2017, you can now adjust and put in just a little bit more, which is always good news.

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Improvements to tax law and reducing taxes are a very popular item on most politicians’ platforms. You won’t find anyone who openly says people should pay more. At least, not anyone currently serving in office.

They’re right, by the way – our tax code is far too cumbersome and it changes constantly. (And no, I’m not running for office.)

President Trump has indicated he wants to reform the tax code and change the way people pay taxes. Lawmakers are reportedly discussing how to do that while paying for expensive new initiatives. How can you do it all?

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

will

Prince performing in concert in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Bob Young.

It’s been more than a year since music legend Prince died unexpectedly at his home in Minnesota. He was actively touring and working at the time of his death on April 21, 2016, at the young age of 57.

You’re forgiven if you assumed his estate was long settled, since he died more than a year ago. But it’s not done yet – and may not be for quite a while – due to the fact that he died without a will.

It’s astounding to think that someone who is as famous, prosperous and with as many assets as Prince would die without this basic legal document. But as it turns out, he’s no different than anyone else – he probably didn’t want to think about death.

Whether you die a famous millionaire or with few assets, if you don’t have a Will you can leave a large mess. Heirs you would have never wanted to have your property could get it. Your estate will spend more probating your assets as well, and those who you wished to receive items from your estate may never see them.

Prince was a very charitable man, yet none of his millions he had nor future royalties will benefit those he likely would have preferred to benefit. Plus, the estate will shell out much more than anyone would want to pay in estate taxes.

Your children and family will be far happier if you take care of this before you die – and there’s no doubt it will bring you piece of mind, too.

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Most people who have considered making an estate plan or who have already made such a plan, whether simple or complex in nature, are familiar with a living will directive. By Kentucky statute, a living will directive may designate a health care surrogate to make decisions for a person when that person is incapacitated or in a vegetative state. The Living Will Directive may state a person’s wishes regarding life-prolonging treatment, artificially provided nutrition, or donating all or part or all of a person’s body. Living will directives are very common in estate planning.

Most people also know what a do-not-resuscitate order is, but in Kentucky, putting one into legal and practical effect appears to be a little tricky. The only direct, standalone authority for mandatory recognition of a do-not-resuscitate order in Kentucky is a statute authorizing a Kentucky Emergency Medical Services Do Not Resuscitate Order. Therefore, an EMS DNR. The statute requires the EMS DNR to be embodied on a standard form approved by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure (click here for form). An EMS DNR, however, only applies to EMS personnel in a pre-hospital setting. From the living room floor to the doors of the hospital, the EMS DNR controls. Once you are in the hospital, assuming you made it that far, the EMS DNR has no effect or control.

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

This is that time of year when we all start thinking about taxes – and how to pay less. We’ve often gotten the news from our accountants that perhaps our refunds won’t be as large as we’d like or that we owe. Ugh to both.

This is a good time to consider if your business can be more charitably minded, and perhaps help you pare back the tax burden next year.

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