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Articles Posted in Estates

LAM-MERITAS-300x284By: Leah Morrison (Read bio; lmorrison@elpolaw.com; 270-781-6500)

One of the most frequent things I hear from potential clients is “I don’t have much, so I don’t need a will.” If you do not have substantial assets, then you may be wondering if this is true. Of course, the answer is unique to you and your family situation. In some cases, where someone qualifies as a small estate and is survived by a spouse or children, then a will is only necessary if you want to change where your assets go under the default law. But in cases where a full probate is required, unintended consequences may arise where Kentucky statutes dictate how your assets are divided and distributed, not your own wishes via a will.

One of the most common misconceptions about Kentucky law is how your property is distributed after your death. Many people assume that your surviving spouse will inherit everything. But while a logical assumption, it is simply not the case in Kentucky – or many states actually. Your surviving spouse is only entitled to half of your assets; the other half go to your heirs-at-law according to Kentucky’s intestate statutes. To determine your heirs-at-law, we follow your family tree – first your children, then grandchildren, then up to your parents, then siblings, and so on. In situations where your spouse is your children’s’ other parent, then not creating a will may not result in a terrible situation for them. Your surviving spouse and children will still split your estate legally, but they’re likely to do so amicably and in a way that won’t burden their surviving parent.

By Leah Morrison            LAM-MERITAS-300x284

Powers of Attorney are a crucial estate planning document and are a critical step in planning for incapacity. A power of attorney allows a person you appoint the written authorization and power to act on your behalf in business, legal, financial, and medical matters. This is usually a trusted family member. If the right power of attorney is put in place, then once incapacitated, the agent (or person appointed under the power of attorney) can step in and take care of the principal’s legal and financial affairs. Without the right power of attorney – or any at all – the incapacitated individual’s family would need to go through the justice system to have a guardian or conservator appointed to represent them.

A power of attorney may be limited or general. A limited power of attorney may only give someone a specific right or two – perhaps the most common place you’ll see a limited power of attorney is in purchasing a car or real estate. Car dealers will often have you sign a limited power of attorney granting them the authority to complete the transaction at the local county clerk. Additionally, you might give someone the authority to sign a deed to property for you on a day that you will be out of town. A general power is comprehensive and usually grants your agent all the powers and rights that you have yourself. This can include allowing your agent to make bank transactions, sign checks, apply for disability, or simply pay your bills.

Nathan Vinson

Nathan Vinson

By Nathan Vinson

Right at two years to the date, Kentucky has again changed its power of attorney law by adopting parts of the Uniform Power of Attorney Act that it did not adopt as part of the changes that went into effect on July 14, 2018.  The new law went into effect on July 15, 2020, and applies to a power of attorney created before, on, or after July 15.  However, acts done before July 15, 2020 are not affected by the new law.

The biggest change created by the 2018 law was the requirement that the power of attorney be witnessed by two disinterested persons, though a power of attorney validly executed before that law went into effect remained valid.  The new law brings about three major changes – one of them being no more witnesses required!  Just two years after that requirement came into effect, it is again changed to take us back to prior law.  However, practitioners may decide it is best practice to continue to require two witnesses.  Further, some states require that the power of attorney have two witnesses, especially when used to transfer real estate.  On the flipside, the new law makes executing a power of attorney in urgent situations much easier.

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Leah Morrison

By: Leah Morrison

Number One: Medicaid is not Medicare.

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people 65 years of age and older and for people under 65 who are totally and permanently disabled. Medicare is not means tested.  Medicare provides limited coverage for nursing home stays- only up to 100 days, after meeting eligibility requirements.

Medicaid is also a federal program that provides insurance coverage, as well as in-home, assisted living, and nursing home benefits.  Medicaid is a means tested program, meaning the applicant must have income and resources below a certain threshold.  Medicaid eligibility depends on meeting both financial and non-financial requirements.

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By Elizabeth McKinney, Partner
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

paperwork-with-pen-1-300x225After you’ve completed your divorce, chances are, you want nothing to do with any more legal documents, courts or attorneys. It’s understandable. It’s a big process that can take a lot of time, and many find it to be exhausting.

But you do have one more step to do as soon as your divorce is complete: change your will. I cannot stress enough how crucial this is – and how much it needs to be attended to right away.

Most people create a will around the time their first child is born as a way of ensuring that their child’s welfare and their assets are protected. Typically, each spouse will leave everything to the other spouse. If you die, and your will is still in place from a time before you divorced, it will still be in force. Your ex will receive all of your assets. When a divorce becomes final, Kentucky law does automatically revoke the provisions of a will which provide for a distribution to a spouse, or appointment of the spouse as executor, trustee, or other fiduciary appointments.  Nevertheless, it is important to update your will after a divorce to designate who receives your assets, who serves as executor, etc. in place of the former spouse.

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peace-of-mind-meditation-photo-pexels-1-300x200By Heather Coleman, Attorney

English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP

Sweet summertime.  The sun shines bright, schools are out, and with no better time for a vacation, the roads and airports are jam-packed with travelers.  Whether scheduling a beach trip, a lake outing, or a mountain getaway, careful planning is necessary to nab the best spot to unwind from the stresses of everyday life.

Editor’s note: This is the second of two blog posts exploring probate: what it is, how it works and what Kentucky law has to say about this process. You can read the first in the series here.

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

Leah Morrison

Leah Morrison, attorney

Probate is one of those things that people universally dismiss as an unduly burdensome process. In fact, many clients tell me they need a will or estate plan so that they can avoid probate.

Outside of the small estate scenario that we explored in the first blog post, Kentucky law provides additional mechanisms for avoiding probate. Not everyone has a Will. Perhaps most often people do not want to write one because they don’t want to think about dying, or they plan to write one and simply put it off. Some purposefully choose intestacy. Even without any planning not all assets owned by the decedent are subject to the probate process. Probate assets include everything the decedent owned in his or her individual name.

These can include:

  • bank accounts;
  • brokerage accounts;
  • real estate held in the decedent’s individual name or in a tenancy in common;
  • vehicles;
  • furniture;
  • jewelry; and
  • an interest in a partnership, corporation, or limited liability company.

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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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