Frankfort Probate Attorneys

A Frankfort probate attorney can stand beside you and your family when a loved one dies and you go through the probate process. It’s a difficult and emotional time, so working with an experienced and compassionate Frankfort probate attorney can make everything easier. Whether your loved one died with or without a will, their estate will likely still have to go through probate. However, if a will does exist, the process will be easier.

The Frankfort 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 Frankfort 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Create an Inventory
    The personal representative or executor of the will must file an inventory of the deceased person’s assets within two months.
  3. 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.

Put our experience to work for you. Contact us today about your probate needs by calling 859-254-5522.

Choosing the Best Probate Lawyer in Frankfort, KY

The Frankfort probate attorneys at Bunch & Brock are among the best and the brightest. We’ve been practicing estate planning and probate law for decades, and there are few situations that we have not already come across in the probate process. Let us put all of 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 Frankfort probate attorneys to choose from, and we feel equally confident that Bunch & Brock stands head and shoulders above the competition.

What Exactly Is Probate?

A Frankfort 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.

Asset Distribution

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:

  1. estate administration costs
  2. family allowances
  3. funeral expenses
  4. taxes
  5. debt.

When all of the creditors are satisfied, whatever is left over is distributed to the beneficiaries named in the will. If the deceased person didn’t 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. Probate can be quite helpful — even where a deceased person did not leave behind any property to transfer — if he or she had creditor problems or was the subject of a potential lawsuit. Probate allows all of the deceased person’s debts to be finally settled. That can be very beneficial to survivors.

New Limits on “Small Estates”

Kentucky General Assembly raises small estate limit from $15,000 to $30,000 as of 2020.

Regular probate can take several months, but there’s also a shortened version of probate for individuals with modest estates. In Kentucky, small estates – those less than $30,000 – can go through an abbreviated process known as “summary probate.” This requires an individual to appear only once in court, and the process is over quickly. In 2020, the Kentucky General Assembly raised the small estate limit from $15,000 to $30,000 (Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 391.030), which means many more estates can now qualify for summary probate.

Probate courts are state courts, so the processes they follow vary from one state to another. In Kentucky, the simplified probate process for small estates makes it very easy for survivors to transfer the deceased person’s property. The process is available where…

  • the will leaves no personal property
  • there is a surviving spouse and the value of property subject to probate is $30,000 or less
  • there is no surviving spouse and the proceeds will go to the children.

A surviving spouse can petition the court to get permission to withdraw up to $2,500 from a bank or depository account in the deceased spouse’s name before the summary probate is settled.

To determine whether an estate qualifies for this shortcut or whether it must be subject to regular probate, it’s in your best interests to consult with a Kentucky estate planning attorney to review your options.

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 have to 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 remains 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 level of connection to the deceased:

  • Deceased’s children and their descendants, if none then
  • Deceased’s father and mother, if neither are living then
  • Deceased’s brothers and sisters and their descendants, if none then
  • The deceased’s husband or wife, if none surviving then
  • Deceased’s grandparents, if none then
  • Deceased’s aunts and uncles and their descendants, if none then
  • Deceased’s great-grandparents, if none then
  • The brothers and sisters 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.

Guardianships Can Also Be Decided in Probate Court

Guardianships of older or disabled individuals are also decided in probate court. A concerned family member may request a guardian, which is a court-appointed individual to supervise the person’s finances and affairs. The guardian makes decisions that the older or disabled person cannot. The court decides whether the person is incapacitated and to what degree. The person subject to the guardianship can disagree with being labeled “incapacitated” and can challenge the guardianship in court.

Assisting Creditors in the Probate Process

A Frankfort probate attorney at Bunch & Brock not only represents estate heirs, but he or she can also represent creditors who are seeking payment of debts in the probate process. If you or your business have debts owed by a person who has died, you are entitled to collect those debts from the deceased person’s estate before remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries. Our attorneys can file a claim on your behalf to make sure these debts are paid. We have represented many creditors in these cases, and we would be happy to speak to you about your situation.

Contact a Frankfort Probate Attorney Today

At Bunch & Brock, we are committed to providing each of our clients with a high 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.

Attorney Matthew Bunch

Matt handles complicated bankruptcies and debt restructuring in Chapters 11 and 13 for both individuals and companies. He has also negotiated with multiple creditors on behalf of his clients to avoid bankruptcy. Matt is the firm’s lead litigator and handles contract disputes, certain personal injury claims and general litigation. [ Attorney Bio ]