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Estate Planning

Estate planning is far more than just generating “form” documents. These cheap form documents are not specific to you and your family.  And if one provision is wrong or left out, the consequences can be devastating to your family and your finances. And the companies that generate these forms take no responsibility for the final result.  If the forms are incorrect, they don’t care, and there’s no way to ensure that form company will be responsible for their actions.  Do you want to leave your family’s fate to a form off the internet?

Estate planning is instead the process of understanding what is important to you and your family and memorializing your wishes in legal documents.  Before your documents are drafted, we will get to know you and your goals and customize a solution for you.  Don’t let costly mistakes result in more court costs, fees, and taxes than absolutely necessary!

Your estate plan may include a will or a trust.  A will sets out who receives your money and your property upon your death. It also gives instructions on who will care for minor children, and if you would prefer to be cremated or buried.  It is not effective until the court opens a probate case. The western Kentucky court then names someone to be in charge of carrying out your wishes and the court oversees the probate process. This process involves the court interpreting the will and order that any creditors are paid, and all remaining money and property are retitled in the names of the beneficiaries as specified in the will. 

If the probate is contested, the process can last years.  Probate can be contested if a family member doesn’t agree with the process or outcome of the case.  Hearings will have to be scheduled, individuals involved in the case will have to take time off work to attend the hearings, and it can become quite costly.  However, if you have a revocable trust, a court process is usually unnecessary. 

A revocable trust, on the other hand, is effective during your lifetime. Like a will, it specifies who receives your money and property at your death. But a revocable trust also states who will manage your money and your property if you are unable to during your lifetime. At death, there is generally no court involvement. Your money and property will be retitled in the names of the beneficiaries of the trust without the need for court oversight.  A revocable trust also provides for privacy for your family, as probate is public record, and no probate is likely necessary if you have a revocable trust.

A revocable trust can be modified at any time.  You can put property into the trust, take it back out, or modify the terms of the trust.  However, some clients may benefit more from an irrevocable trust.  That term can sound very scary and final, but even an irrevocable trust offers some flexibility.  There can be asset protection and Medicaid qualifying benefits to an irrevocable trust.

Another type of trust is a special needs trust.  A special needs trust protects assets while allowing the beneficiary to qualify for public benefits.  This can be a first-party special needs trust, where the assets of the beneficiary are used to fund the trust, or a third-party special needs trust, where the assets of someone other than the beneficiary is used to fund the trust.  These trusts can be useful when a supplemental needs person receives an inheritance or lawsuit settlement, or when a loved one wants to put money aside for the beneficiary’s care.  Most wills and trusts will also include contingent special needs trust provisions.  These provisions state that if a beneficiary is on public benefits when the inheritance is received, that inheritance will go into this special type of special needs trust so that the beneficiary can still qualify to receive those public benefits.  This is just another layer of protection for your beneficiaries, usually your kids or grandkids. 

Another way to protect your beneficiaries is to have certain provisions in your estate planning documents that say if your beneficiary is underage or incapacitated, their inheritance can remain in a protected trust.  We can design your documents to ensure protection down the line, no matter what the circumstances may be at the time. 

We can draft your estate planning documents to not only achieve maximum asset protection for you but also for your family.  This way, you can rest assured that your legacy will be protected should your family member have creditors, go through a divorce, or fall on hard times.  We want to protect your entire family, if that is something that is important to you.

When you come in to meet with us, we will find out which type of estate planning is best for you and your goals – a will, a revocable trust, or an irrevocable trust.  You can rest assured that we will get the right plan in place for you, so you can rest easy knowing you have set your family up for success. 

A power of attorney allows you to name an agent who will make either financial or health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so. In Kentucky, you can have a durable power of attorney for health care decisions (as authorized by the Kentucky Living Will Directive Act) and a durable power of attorney for financial decisions. 

If you become unable to make decisions on your own behalf and do not have the proper powers of attorney in place, your family will have to file a lawsuit to have you declared incompetent.  Then, the judge will name someone to act on your behalf.  This can be time consuming, costly, and stressful.  And in the end, your wishes may not be carried out.  This is why it is so important to have these documents in place while you are healthy and able to make those decisions.

When choosing to create a durable power of attorney for health care decisions, you should consider the following:

  • Do you want life-extending medical care, like nutrition and hydration, withheld under certain circumstances?
  • Where do you want to live if you can’t live at home?
  • Whom do you want to name as your agent – the person who has the authority to make health care decisions for you? Does your agent need to confer with others?

We can help you create a thorough power of attorney for health care decisions that will provide you peace of mind should you ever need an agent to act on your behalf.  Make sure to have these documents in place now, so that if something unexpected happens, you have the plan in place for your family and you know your wishes will be carried out.

Likewise, when creating a durable power of attorney for financial decisions, you should consider the following:

  • What powers will your agent have with respect to your bank accounts?
  • Can your agent make gifts to herself?
  • Can your agent sign a contract on your behalf?

You can make your durable power of attorney effective now or only effective in the event you become incapacitated.  If you make the power effective now, that agent can have the full powers included in the document right away.  This might be the best option for you, or it may not. We will help you decide.

There are many powers that you can include in your durable power of attorney—property powers, financial powers, business powers, legal action powers, gifting powers, administrative powers, and other miscellaneous powers.  We won’t just include any and all powers without understanding if that is right for your case, to further your desires and goals. 

These questions and more are critical when creating a durable power of attorney for financial decisions. If you don’t have a plan in place, bills may go unpaid, financial accounts may be frozen, and your family may struggle financially.  An expensive court process could be required if you don’t already have the durable power of attorney in place.  We can work with you to determine which powers are appropriate given your current situation.