Louisville Estate Planning Attorneys
An estate plan is important for everyone to have at every stage of their adult life. Having a comprehensive estate plan in place protects your assets during your lifetime and ensures that your property will be distributed according to your wishes after you are gone. Equally important, estate planning can protect you if you ever become physically or mentally incapacitated and unable to care for yourself or your financial affairs, even for just a brief period of time. At John H. Ruby & Associates, we take the time to sit down with you and understand your needs and goals. We provide the advice and assistance needed to create a complete estate plan that addresses all of your concerns and makes sure you and your family are protected now and into the future.
Leave a Lasting Legacy with a Kentucky Will
A will allows you to distribute your entire estate to family, friends, charities, educational institutions, or wherever you desire. The will is the perfect document to leave a legacy for future generations. The will also accomplishes many other important tasks, such as naming an executor for your estate, or naming a guardian for any minor children you may have. Even if you are transferring property through a revocable living trust, having a will in place will make sure all of your estate is accounted for and included in the trust. Our wills and trusts lawyers draft a will that meets all the requirements for valid wills in Kentucky so that you can rest assured your wishes will be followed.
What makes a will valid in Kentucky?
The person making the will, known as the testator, must be 18 years old or older and be of sound mind, meaning the person knows that he or she is making a will and understands the decisions he or she is making. The will must be written (or typed) and signed by the testator in front of two or more credible witnesses who also sign the will in each other’s presence and in the testator’s presence. If the testator cannot physically sign the will, he or she can direct another person to sign on his or her behalf.
A valid will can dispose of the person’s property to family, friends, charities, educational institutions, etc. The will can also name an executor and appoint a guardian for any minor children the testator may have.
What is a “self-proving” will?
In order to give effect to a will, it must first be submitted to the probate court and proven to be the proper, valid will of the testator. This generally requires contacting one of the witnesses who signed the will and having that person testify (in person or by affidavit) that the will admitted to probate is the one he or she witnessed. However, if at the time the will is signed and witnessed, it is also duly notarized, then it is considered to be “self-proving.” A self-proving will can be accepted by the probate court without having to call any witnesses or take any other steps to authenticate the will. Having the will notarized when it is executed saves time and money in the probate process.
What if the testator made the will by himself, and nobody was available to sign it?
Kentucky law recognizes the validity of what is known as a holographic will. This is a will which is written entirely in the testator’s own handwriting, including signature and date. A holographic will can be admitted to probate, although the court may need to call in a witness who is familiar with the testator’s handwriting to testify that the will is written in the testator’s own hand.
Is it better to have a will or a trust?
A trust can accomplish some of the same actions as a will, such as distributing property after death, although the trust does this in a different legal fashion. The main advantage of a trust is that property in a trust does not have to go through probate. Also, a trust document is private and confidential, while the contents of a will become a matter of public record when the will is submitted for probate. It is also more difficult to challenge the validity of a trust than it is to contest a will. It is certainly worthwhile to consider having one or more trusts as part of your estate plan and to talk these matters over with your estate planning attorney. You will still want to have a will to do certain things a trust cannot and to make sure all of your property is accounted for and disposed of according to your wishes.
If you are the parent of a minor child, you most likely appointed a guardian in your will who will assume your parental duties if you die before your children are grown. If you have not provided for a guardian through your will, the court may appoint one of its own choosing. In either case, disputes may arise, and legal representation may be necessary, where a designated guardian is challenged or another party feels more fit for appointment.
Avoid Probate by Using Trusts
Trusts are another popular way to transfer assets instead of or in addition to a will. Property transferred through a trust does not have to go through probate, lessening the time and expense of that complicated process. Also, a trust document is confidential, as opposed to a will, which becomes a matter of public record when it is probated. A trust therefore offers a higher degree of privacy for people who don’t necessarily want the world to know the contents of their estate and where it is going. Trusts are also more difficult to challenge than wills in general, which can be contested in a number of ways. Our attorneys can help you create a revocable living trust or even more exotic trusts which offer tax savings, asset protection and other benefits.
Plan for Incapacity with Powers of Attorney
A comprehensive estate plan will also provide for your care in the event you ever become physically or mentally incapacitated due to illness or an accident, and you become unable to care for yourself or make your own health, financial and legal decisions, even for a short period of time. Through a combination of living wills, advance healthcare directives, and powers of attorney, we help ensure that the decisions affecting you are made according to your expressed desires by people you trust.
If the right powers of attorney are not in place when needed, it may be necessary for the court to impose an involuntary guardianship upon you. The guardian appointed by the court may be someone you don’t even know. If the decisions that matter to you most are taken out of your hands, make sure they are placed with someone you know and trust to do their utmost to look out for you and do what you would want them to.
There are several aspects to estate planning that we assist with. They are the following:
- Asset Protection
- Elder Law
- Medicaid Planning
Protect Your Assets
Chances are you worked hard for all that you have acquired in life, which is why is it important to ensure your assets are protected. Whether you are an individual or a business, at John H. Ruby & Associates we have extensive experience helping clients protect their assets from future creditors and civil judgments.
There are some assets, however, which are exempt from creditors, such as:
- Homestead and burial plot
- Life insurance proceeds, including group and health insurance
- Proceeds under an annuity contract
This list is not exhaustive – we encourage you contact us to learn more about which assets are vulnerable and need to be protected.
A trust, generally, holds your property for the benefit of another, the beneficiary. When you place your assets in an irrevocable trust, however, those assets are no longer legally yours. You also cannot change or terminate the trust; only the beneficiary can. Irrevocable trusts may also be an important component of your estate planning.
Asset Protection for Businesses
A Limited Liability Company (LLC) shields business owners from personal liability for the debts of the business. To form an LLC there are certain legal formalities that must be followed. The most important step, however, is filing the articles of organization with the Kentucky Secretary of State. The articles of organization contain:
- The name of the company
- A registered office and agent
- An address for the company
- A statement setting forth the company’s management structure
There are many other requirements that must be met to legally establish your LLC to ensure proper protection of your assets.
Family Limited Partnerships
A Family Limited Partnership (FLP) is a family-owned investment-producing entity. As a limited partnership, there must be general and limited partners. An FLP protects family assets from creditors and, unlike an irrevocable trust, an FLP may be amended.
Forming an FLP in Kentucky requires an organizational document or agreement that must be provided to the State. Because these documents can have legal ramifications, it is important to seek the advice of knowledgeable counsel.
Breach of Fiduciary Duty
A fiduciary is a person who is under a legal duty to act in the best interests of another party. Trustees, executors, and guardians, for instance, are all considered fiduciaries under the law as they are obligated to act for the benefit of another, be it the beneficiaries under a will or trust, or a minor whose legal needs must be looked after.
Fiduciary duties include the obligations to act in good faith, to be honest, to invite confidence and trust, and to be loyal. A breach occurs when the fiduciary acts in any way adverse to these duties – conflicts of interest and acts of dishonesty by the fiduciary are the most frequent examples of what constitutes a breach. The probate setting is especially ripe for breaches of this nature to occur; our firm makes sure any such breaches are remedied appropriately.
Get Help from Caring and Experienced Louisville Estate Planning Attorneys
Creating an estate plan requires you to consider the things that matter most to you and make important decisions about them. We can help guide you through those decisions and draft the legal documents necessary to make them a reality. If you already have an estate plan, we can review it and make any changes when your needs or goals change. In Jefferson and Oldham counties, contact John H. Ruby & Associates in Louisville for advice and assistance from knowledgeable, caring and experienced Kentucky estate planning attorneys.