Probate Attorneys Servicing the Paris, Kentucky Area
A Bourbon County 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 Paris 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 Bourbon County probate attorneys at Bunch & Brock know that estate law is full of unfamiliar legal jargon for many clients. Words like “decedent,” “intestate,” “executor,” and “distribution” can all seem confusing.
“Probate” refers to the judicial determination of a will’s validity. 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 Paris probate attorney. You may be uncertain of your rights and responsibilities, or you 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.
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 Paris, KY
The Paris 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 we have not already encountered 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 Paris probate attorneys to choose from, and we feel confident that Bunch & Brock stands head and shoulders above the competition.
What Exactly Is Probate?
A Paris 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, the 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 the deceased person owes 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 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
Generally, all the possessions of the decedent (person who died) are subject to probate, which is the legal process of transforming a will into an enforceable legal document.
Estate taxes normally apply to probate assets. In a few cases, such taxes are negligible. However, in most cases, these taxes are quite high. So, the government, instead of your designated heirs, receives a large portion of your property.
Additionally, every piece of paper in the probate court’s file becomes a public record. That includes evidence of family strife in a will contest. That also includes a complete inventory of the decedent’s property. Many people have expensive gun collections, art collections, and other costly and/or controversial items they do not want other people to know about.
Finally, the probate process is often long and protracted, even if the decedent had a will. Many people want to transmit their assets to their heirs as quickly as possible.
For all these reasons, and more, many people want to avoid the probate process, or at least streamline it. These individuals have legal options, such as:
- Tenancy of the Entirety/Tenancy in Common: This legal vehicle, which is also known as community property with ROS (right of survivorship), is available to married couples. When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse automatically takes full title to the house or other property.
- Financial Account with ROS: Owners often have the option to designate beneficiaries in life insurance policies, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and other such items. Once again, since legal title transfers automatically, these assets are not subject to probate.
- Trusts: These devices are the most common tools in a probate avoidance plan. The settlor (the person creating the trust) moves property (corpus) into a trust. The trust, not the settler, becomes the legal owner of this property. As such, the corpus is not subject to probate. Usually, the settlor and trustee (person who manages the trust for a beneficiary) is the same person. Our Paris probate attorneys can set up many trusts to meet your needs.
Probate is still needed if there is a will. But having a complete estate plan 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 individuals were overbearing and had undue influence on the deceased person when they were creating their will; 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; if none, then
- Deceased’s father and mother; if neither are living, then
- The 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
Family members and other beneficiaries are not the only people with legal rights in the probate process. The decedent’s creditors have rights as well.
Our Paris probate lawyers deal with a wide range of estate creditors. Taxing authorities and medical providers are probably the most common ones.
In today’s economy, most people are self-employed or have a large side hustle. Income in both areas is subject to dramatic peaks and valleys. Therefore, these individuals often fall behind on tax payments. Many people pass away after a prolonged illness or because of a sudden trauma injury, like a car crash. In these cases, the decedent could leave behind tens of thousands of dollars or even more in medical bills.
A taxpayer’s or medical patient’s death does not terminate the creditor’s right to payment. Our Bourbon County probate lawyers negotiate with estate administrators to obtain payment. A judge usually decides the matter if we cannot work out a favorable settlement.
Contact a Paris 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.