Winchester Probate Attorney
Get Help from Our Winchester Probate Lawyer
A Winchester probate attorney can stand beside you and your family when a loved one has died and you need to go through the probate process. It’s a difficult and emotional time, so working with an experienced and compassionate Winchester 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.
Probate is a court-supervised legal process that may be required after someone dies, and Kentucky probate law governs what happens with the deceased person’s property. After death, probate gives the estate’s representative the authority to gather assets, pay debts and taxes, and eventually transfer assets to the heirs. Probate not only can protect the personal representative of the estate; it can ensure the estate is properly distributed, as the court sees that everything follows the stipulations of the will and state law.
The Winchester probate lawyers at Bunch & Brock are accomplished legal professionals with more than 35 years of legal experience. Offering comprehensive counsel along with friendly, personal service, we have efficiently and effectively guided many people in Clark County and throughout Kentucky through the probate process and handled their estate planning needs. Put our experience to work for you and let us help you with your probate situation, rights and responsibilities.
Why Choose Our Probate Lawyer in Winchester, KY
There are many lawyers out there, and it’s important for you to choose one that not only makes you feel comfortable, but one who has the knowledge necessary to deal with all your probate and estate planning issues. Here are some reasons we believe Bunch & Brock is your best choice:
- We are experienced, and have celebrated our fortieth anniversary as a law firm providing professional, quality legal advice and representation to families, individuals, and businesses in Central Kentucky. Attorney Thomas Bunch established the practice in 1976, when it was rare to find an attorney practicing primarily in consumer or corporate bankruptcy law. His sons, Thomas Bunch II and Matthew Bunch, continue the legacy of helping people and businesses.
- When you hire a lawyer at Bunch & Brock, in Winchester, Kentucky, you will have a lawyer handling your case—not a paralegal or legal assistant.
- We offer personalized service to clients and the same experience and resources as many large firms — without giving up individual attention that we provide.
- We are local. The majority of our staff hails from Central Kentucky, so we know the problems of the people in Clark County. The relationships we’ve forged with clients and the community are the cornerstones of our practice.
- We provide trusted advice. We can provide the reliable legal advice to help you decide which is the best way to protect your assets and pass them on to your heirs.
To learn more about our legal team, you can read our attorney bios. When you have our Winchester, Kentucky, probate lawyers on your side, we will help you and your family on a wide range of estate planning and probate matters, providing personalized service based on your needs. Our goal is to make sure you know your rights and responsibilities, help you get through the probate process, and make sure you and your loved ones are protected and you receive the assets you are entitled to. We are proud of our firm and the communities we serve, and we are here to help.
Call us today to discuss all your probate and estate planning needs.
Winchester Probate Lawyer Explains the Probate Process
In the court-supervised probate process, a personal representative is given the legal authority to gather and value assets, pay debts and taxes, and transfer assets to beneficiaries after a person’s death. 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.
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.
Probate Lawyer in Winchester Explains Relevant Terms
Understanding legal terms of probate will help simplify the process. Here are some terms you should know:
- Testator — the person who makes a will
- Beneficiary — anyone who receives property from the testator
- Executor — the person appointed to make sure the property is disposed of according to the testator’s wishes
- Decedent — the person who has died, who also may have been the testator at one time if a will was drafted.
If there is a will, the probate court examines it to determine if it was legally created. To be valid, wills in Kentucky are required to be in writing, signed and dated by the testator, and signed by witnesses. Wills are examined to see if they list all the testator’s assets, if the assets are properly valued, and if the assets can be passed on the way the testator wanted. For example, a testator cannot disinherit his or her spouse unless there is a prenuptial agreement stipulating otherwise.
Winchester Probate Attorneys Know Asset Distribution
The decedent’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 they 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 are forms of property ownership that function like joint tenancy, in that the survivor owns the entire property at the death of the other tenant; this type of ownership is available only to married couples.
- Policies and Accounts with Beneficiary Designation, such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies have named beneficiaries 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 be responsible for how your property will be handled and distributed after you die.
Order of Asset Distribution
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. During the probate process, 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 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 (KRS Chapter 391) 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.
Winchester Probate Lawyer Explains Limits on “Small Estates”
In Kentucky, there is a simplified probate process for small estates that makes it easier for survivors to transfer property. 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.
Kentucky’s simplified probate process for small estates 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.
Probate is still needed if there is a will, but having a will makes the entire probate process simpler and less stressful.
Issues Our Winchester Probate Attorneys Deal With
There are many issues and potential problems that arise, in and out of the probate courts, that our Winchester probate lawyers deal with to make the process of transferring assets as easy as possible. These include:
Dying Intestate (Without a Will) in Kentucky
If someone dies without a will in Kentucky, their 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.
Conflicts 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 is 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.
Issues Involving Guardianships
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.
Issues with Creditors
If you or your business has 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 Winchester probate attorney at Bunch & Brock not only represents estate heirs, but can also represent creditors who are seeking payment of debts in the probate process. 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.
Call Our Winchester Probate Attorney Today
We Help with All Probate and Estate Planning Matters
Dealing with a loved one’s estate can be a difficult time for the family. The experienced Kentucky probate lawyers at Bunch & Brock can help. We understand that each probate estate is unique, and we have worked hard to protect the best interests of hundreds of clients faced with the situation you are in now.
We are committed to providing each of our clients with a high level of personal service, and we will walk you through each of the steps that must be taken. If you are faced with estate planning issues or 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.