Experienced Kentucky Estate Planning, Wills And Trusts Attorneys
Creating a comprehensive estate plan is an essential part of providing your loved ones with security and stability. Our lawyers at Kerrick Bachert, PSC, assist Kentucky clients in exploring a variety of estate planning tools. Establishing wills and trusts can provide for your family or business in accordance with your wishes and can give you confidence that your assets and legacy will be managed responsibly after your death.
Whether you are aging, welcoming a new member to your family or simply preparing for life’s uncertainties, you should plan for tomorrow today. Our attorneys can help you understand what estate planning tools are right for you and can create an estate plan that clearly reflects your goals.
What Is An Estate Plan?
An estate plan is a series of documents that manages your assets after your death (or, in some cases, if you become unable to make decisions for yourself due to injury or illness). Creating an estate plan today can help you ensure that your wishes are clearly expressed while you are of sound mind.
An estate plan can include:
- Living wills
- Powers of attorney
What Is A Will And What Happens If There Is No Valid Will?
A will is the most common tool for distributing your assets to your loved ones after your death. Simply discussing “Who gets what?” with your children or grandchildren does not constitute a valid will. A valid will must be:
- Written, typed or printed
- Signed by you
- Signed by two witnesses who are present at the time of your signing
While the requirements for a valid will may appear simple, it is essential to have the guidance of an estate planning attorney to ensure that they are strictly adhered to. If a court finds that a will is invalid, it can reject the document and distribute your assets as it sees fit. Typical court distributions are as follows:
- If you die and are survived by a spouse, they generally receive the entirety of your estate
- If you die and are survived by a spouse and children, the value of the state is generally divided between your spouse and your children. Your spouse may be forced to sell significant assets, such as your house, to provide your children with their court-ordered share of your estate
- If you die without a spouse or children but are survived by your parents, they generally receive the entirety of your estate
- If you die without a spouse, children or parents but are survived by siblings, the estate will be divided equally among them.
A valid will enables you to control how your money, possessions and real estate are distributed once you pass away. Having a valid will in place gives you confidence that your loved ones will be provided for after your death and can reduce conflicts or arguments over your assets among your loved ones after you’ve passed.
What Is Probate?
If you die with a valid will, a court must confirm that the will constitutes your final wishes and appoint a person to ensure that your assets are distributed in accordance with those wishes. In the probate process, your assets are gathered and inventoried, any outstanding debts or tax obligations you may have had are paid off using those assets and the remaining assets are distributed as dictated by your will.
Can Assets Be Transferred Outside Of Probate?
Simply put, yes. Not all assets in an estate need to go through probate in order to be legally transferred to your beneficiaries. Assets that can be passed directly to your heirs include:
- Benefits paid to individuals named on your IRA, 401(k) accounts or payable-on-death bank accounts
- Real or personal property – including real estate, vehicles, bank accounts or jewelry – that you co-own, all of which transfer to the co-owners without probate
What Is A Living Will?
A living will is distinct from a “last will and testament.” Rather than laying out instructions for distributing your assets after your death, it describes what type of medical treatment you do or do not wish to receive if you become terminally ill and are unable to communicate. Also called an “advance medical directive,” a living will guides your loved ones and health care providers through difficult end-of-life decisions if you become comatose, incoherent or incapacitated.
What Is A Power Of Attorney?
A power of attorney is a document in which you, as the “principal,” designate a trusted individual to act as your “agent” and make decisions about your finances and health care. Your agent has the power to manage your money, make purchases and sales of your assets, enter into contracts on your behalf and choose what medical treatment you receive. A power of attorney falls into one of the three categories below.
A nondurable power of attorney immediately authorizes your agent to act on your behalf. However, this authorization is limited in scope – ending when you revoke it or you become incapacitated. Nondurable powers of attorney are often used for very specific purposes. For example, you might authorize a family member to conduct a real estate sale on the other side of the country if you are unable to travel there yourself, or you might give your stockbroker the power to manage portions of your finances.
A durable power of attorney does not end if you become incapacitated. If you become unconscious due to a medical emergency or are otherwise unable to make decisions for yourself due to an illness or injury, your agent can continue to manage your finances or medical care on your behalf. Unlike living wills, durable powers of attorney do not apply solely to end-of-life care. They authorize your agent to act when you cannot, even if you expect to make a full recovery. Durable powers of attorney remain in effect until either you revoke them or you pass away.
A springing power of attorney takes effect under a specified set of circumstances – often disability, illness or injury. For example, you may designate an adult child or spouse as your agent only in the event that you suffer a catastrophic accident or you do not revive from a scheduled medical procedure. A springing power of attorney ends only when you die or it’s revoked by a court.
Safeguard Your Future Today
To learn more about the diverse range of estate planning tools you can use to safeguard your finances, health care and future, contact Kerrick Bachert, PSC. Our dedicated estate planning and probate attorneys, Scott Bachert and Natalie Feldman, are ready to answer your questions and help you understand which estate planning tools may be right for you. To schedule a free consultation, call 270-715-2410 or complete our online form.