Nicholasville Probate Attorneys
A Nicholasville probate attorney stands beside you and your family when a loved one dies and you go through the probate process. It is a difficult and emotional time, so working with an experienced and compassionate Nicholasville probate attorney can make everything easier.
The Nicholasville probate attorneys at Bunch & Brock know that for many clients, estate law is full of unfamiliar legal jargon. Words like decedent, intestate, executor, and distribution can all seem confusing. “Probate” refers to the judicial determination of whether a will is valid. It also encompasses the method by which an estate is administered and processed through the legal system. Because it is so complex and nuanced, this area of the law requires the guidance of a skilled and experienced Nicholasville probate attorney. You may be uncertain of your rights and responsibilities, or you simply may not know where to begin.
There are three steps in the Kentucky probate process:
- File a Petition
A probate petition and filing fee must be filed with the district court clerk in the county where the deceased person lived.
- Create an Inventory
The personal representative or executor of the will must file an inventory of the deceased person’s assets within two months.
- Achieve a Final Settlement
The executor of the will files with the court an accounting of all disbursements and receipts.
If you find yourself involved in the probate process and need legal guidance, we can help. Or if there is infighting among family members about whether a deceased person’s will is valid, we can help you litigate the matter in court. The law office of Bunch & Brock is located in Lexington, but we routinely handle cases throughout the central region of Kentucky.
Why Choose Our Probate Lawyer in Nicholasville, KY?
The Nicholasville probate attorneys at Bunch & Brock have been practicing estate planning and probate law for decades. There are few situations that we have not already come across in the probate process. Let us put all that experience to work for you. To learn more about our legal team, you can read our attorney bios.
We are proud of the communities we serve. We know there are a lot of Nicholasville probate attorneys to choose from, and we feel equally confident that Bunch & Brock stands far above the competition.
What Exactly Is Probate?
A Nicholasville probate lawyer explains the ins and outs of the probate process.
Probate is a court-supervised legal process to settle an estate after someone’s death. In the probate process, a personal representative is given the legal authority to gather and value assets, pay debts and taxes, and transfer assets to the people you wish to inherit them. This representative is an executor named in the will or a representative appointed by the court if there is no will. The purpose of probate is to prevent fraud after someone’s death. No one can touch the estate until a judge determines that:
- The will is valid (if one exists).
- All the relevant people have been notified.
- All the property has been identified and appraised.
- Creditors and taxes have been paid.
After all of this is established and confirmed, property can be distributed to heirs and the estate is closed.
The assets that make up an estate have to be distributed in a specific order. For example, any debts or taxes owed by the deceased person will be paid first. Creditors that have a valid claim are typically paid in the following order:
- estate administration costs
- family allowances
- funeral expenses
When all the creditors are satisfied, whatever is left over is distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will. If the deceased person did not have a will or it is determined that only part of the estate is covered by a valid will, probate applies Kentucky succession law to establish who gets what and legally transfers title to those people.
Assets That Can Avoid Probate
The deceased person’s taxable estate includes all the assets in which he or she has an interest at the time of death, but only those assets that are held individually must go through probate. Assets that are jointly owned with a right of survivorship pass to the second owner when the first owner dies, so these are not usually subject to probate.
Other assets that can be passed on without going through probate include:
- Tenancy by the Entirety or Community Property with Right of Survivorship — These forms of property ownership function like joint tenancy, in that the survivor owns the entire property at the death of the other tenant, but they are only available to married couples.
- Policies and Accounts with Beneficiary Designation, such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies have named beneficiaries who are entitled to the assets in the account or the proceeds of the policy.
- Assets in a Living Trust — Living Trusts are created mostly to avoid probate. The person setting up the trust, called the trustor, designates a person, called a trustee, to hold property for another person, called a beneficiary. If you are setting up a living trust, you can make yourself the trustee and keep full control over all property held in the trust while you are alive. You also designate a successor trustee, often a spouse or a child, to handle and distribute your property after you die.
- Cash, personal property, real estate, assets held as tenants in common, and named beneficiary assets that do not name anyone are generally subject to probate.
Probate is still needed if there is a will, but having a will makes the entire probate process simpler and less stressful.
Conflicts Can Arise with Wills
In some cases, conflicts can arise regarding a will’s validity, and these cases often wind up in litigation. Examples of these conflicts include:
- Family members present copies of other wills which include different terms and heirs. The court will determine which will is the newest and whether that will remain valid.
- A beneficiary challenges a will’s validity. If the beneficiary is successful, the court could disregard the will and treat the estate as though the person died intestate.
- An executor decides the estate should not pay a bill submitted by a creditor. The creditor typically has the right to challenge that decision in court and demand payment.
- A family member argues that some individual was overbearing and had undue influence on the deceased person when they were creating their will, and therefore the will is invalid.
A will should always be dated and notarized with witnesses present. And it is best to keep all estate planning documents in the same secure location. If you write a new will, it is a good idea to destroy an old will so there is no confusion among family members after you pass away.
Dying Intestate (Without a Will) in Kentucky
If someone dies without a will in Kentucky, then his or her assets will be distributed based on Kentucky’s succession laws. Generally, if there is a surviving spouse, then he or she will receive half of the deceased person’s estate under succession laws. A court will distribute the remaining half of the estate to a living heir in the following order based on the level of connection to the deceased:
- The deceased’s children and their descendants
- The deceased’s father and mother
- The deceased’s brothers and sisters and their descendants
- The deceased’s husband or wife
- The deceased’s grandparents
- The deceased’s aunts and uncles and their descendants
- The deceased’s great-grandparents
- The siblings of the deceased’s grandparents, and so on, passing to the nearest lineal ancestors and their descendants.
Kentucky does not collect an estate tax, but the IRS does collect a federal estate tax in many circumstances.
Nicholasville Probate Attorney FAQs
How long do creditors have to make a claim against a Kentucky estate?
Once the court appoints a fiduciary, the clerk or probate attorney publishes a notice in a local newspaper. This notice serves as a notice to creditors. A creditor has six months from the time of publishing to submit a claim to the estate. If a creditor attempts to submit a claim after six months, the claim is usually barred.
What is a Will Contest?
Someone, usually a relative or guardian, can contest a will. The will contest is held in the circuit court, while the probate is in the district court. A will contest is a complicated matter; thus, if someone contests the will, you should always retain a probate attorney.
Do funeral costs get paid before other creditors?
Funeral and burial expenses are paid from the estate. They are paid before most creditors. The only creditors that get their money prior to disbursing funeral and burial costs are those with secured debt, such as a home with a mortgage, pledged property, and secured car loans.
Does my estate have to pay the executor a commission?
No. You do not have to provide payment to the administrator. However, if you choose to leave money for administrative duties, Kentucky caps it at five percent of the value of the decedent’s personal property probate assets. If your loved one provides a commission for you, the commission is taxable.
Do I have to file income taxes on behalf of my deceased loved one?
It depends. If your loved one was younger and earned money, you will have to file an income tax return for your loved one. In some cases, the Internal Revenue Service stops collecting income tax from individuals beyond a certain age. If your loved one was beyond that age at death and did not have taxable income, then you do not have to file an income tax return.
Additionally, the estate is a taxable entity that must file income tax if it received income during the administration of the estate. However, most estates do not receive income during administration. Income includes a taxable retirement account, compensation received after the death of your loved one, or investment income.
Do I have to pay estate and inheritance taxes?
You only pay these taxes if the estate is very large. The federal estate tax changes often. Your probate attorney will advise as to whether the estate owes estate and inheritance taxes.
Kentucky also has an inheritance tax that is separate from the federal estate tax. The amount of the tax depends on the amount that is passed to each beneficiary. However, any amount passed onto a spouse, child or grandchild is exempt from Kentucky’s inheritance tax.
Contact a Nicholasville Probate Attorney Today
At Bunch & Brock, we are committed to providing each of our clients with an elevated level of personal service. If your loved one has died and you are facing the probate process or estate litigation, we can guide and advise you. We will walk beside you every step of the way. Put our years of skill and experience to work for you and your family. To schedule an initial consultation, please call 859-254-5522.