By Heather Coleman Brooks
Attorney, English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP
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.
Consider the following examples of what could occur if you die without a will:
- If you are married with children, your assets will be divided among your spouse and children– regardless of your children’s age. If your child is under the age of 18, the court will require the assets be held in trust with court oversight until your child reaches 18 years old. At 18, your child will receive all assets held in trust in a lump sum. Is this how you would choose for your assets to pass? If the answer is no, you need a will.
- If you are married without children, the assets will be divided among your spouse and your heirs at law. Often this means your spouse receives half of your assets after all debts are paid, and the remaining assets are distributed to your parents, siblings, aunts/uncles, etc. Is this how you would choose for your assets to pass? If the answer is no, you need a will.
- If you are unmarried or something happens to you and your spouse, the court will appoint a guardian for your minor children based on the court’s determination of what is in the best interest of the child. Do you want the court to determine who will care for your children without having your preferences known? If the answer is no, you need a will.
- Your personal representative will search through your records in an attempt to locate any assets that you may own. He or she will be responsible for reporting your assets to the court and winding up your affairs. Do you want the court to control who is appointed to this position instead of you? Will the personal representative be able to locate your assets? If the answer is no, you need a will.
- A personal representative will be appointed by the court to gather your assets, report their value, and oversee their distribution. Creditors will have an opportunity to make claims against your estate for the debts that are owed. If your estate has insufficient funds to pay all claims, the court may require that certain assets be sold, including any real estate that you own. Is this how you would choose for your debts to be paid? If the answer is no, you need a will.
Flat fee will services start at $600
Given these uncertainties, you may be wondering why anyone chooses to die without a will. There are a number of reasons, but we’ll tell you the two we see the most often: it is not fun to talk about death, and people assume the process of estate planning is too expensive.
We can make that conversation about your estate plan easier by providing guidance for you to use in thinking through your legacy and what matters to you.
But we can also help you with cost. ELPO is committed to developing a plan that works for you and your family, and we offer clients complete estate planning services for a flat fee, starting at $600 per family. This includes a last will and testament, power of attorney, and living will directive: three essential tools you need in your estate plan. If your estate is more complicated, we will quote you a fee to prepare all the documents you need, and will thoroughly review all aspects of your estate plan with you.
ELPO can help you
Our hope is that by offering these services, more people will give careful consideration to estate planning. Contact me, attorney Heather Coleman Brooks, to get started with the process. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at (270) 781-6500.
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