Radcliff Probate Attorneys
Representing Our Hardin County Clients in Probate Court
When someone passes away, their estate will have to go through some level of probate court. Careful estate planning can shorten and alleviate the process, but a person’s estate must still be settled. Unfortunately, probate is expensive, time-consuming, and strenuous for all parties involved. In most cases, you should attempt to limit the impact and involvement of probate wherever possible.
It is important to understand the extent of the probate process and how it can be leveraged in the state of Kentucky. Should you find yourself embroiled in probate court due to the death of a loved one, you will likely need legal representation to ensure your and the decedent’s rights are honored. Our Radcliff probate lawyers can represent you in court to limit the worst consequences of the process. We can also work with you and your loved ones to proactively avoid probate wherever possible. We understand how stressful probate can be, especially when you are already grieving a loss, which is why we strive to make managing probate as painless as possible.
How Probate Works in Kentucky
When someone passes away, the first step of the probate process is to locate the deceased’s last will and testament. If a will cannot be located, the deceased’s assets will become subject to intestacy, in which the state mathematically divides property and distributes it to the most immediate living relatives. Intestacy laws underline why writing a will is so important: Without one, you have no say in what happens to your property once you are gone.
Once the will has been found, a petition will need to be filed with the District Court requesting to begin the probate process. In most wills, the decedent will appoint a personal representative, or executor, to represent and manage the facilitation of their final wishes. Generally, the court will honor the requested appointment, but their approval must still be obtained.
Next, the will’s authenticity will have to be proven in court. If the will is self-proving – meaning it was notarized in addition to fulfilling other requirements – the court will in most cases expediently agree the will is valid. If the will was not notarized, the court will need to contact at least one of the witnesses of the will’s signing to confirm its validity. If the court cannot get in touch with any witness, or there appear to have been no witnesses in the first place, the contents of the will could become jeopardized. A nonvalid will lead to the deceased’s assets being placed in intestacy.
At this time, heirs of the deceased will also be contacted. One or more parties might object to the contents of the will and consequently object to its authenticity. A common argument in these cases is that the objector believes the decedent was not of rational mind when they completed the will. These objections can lead to extended delays and even probate litigation.
The appointed executor will be expected to take a complete inventory of the assets named in the will, including tabulating their value at the time of death. In most cases, an executor will have up to 60 days to complete this task in Kentucky, and the results will be reviewed and signed off by the probate court.
Any outstanding debts or obligations will then need to be paid using the available resources left behind by the deceased. The payment of debt overrules any designations of property should its monetary value be needed to settle an obligation, which is part of why it is important to consult with qualified legal representation when building your estate plan. No distribution of resources can occur until debts, including taxes, have been paid.
Finally, the distribution of resources per the terms of the decedent’s will can occur. Once the process has been completed, the executor can move to “settle the estate,” a process that can require an exhaustive and time-consuming level of documentation.
Our Radcliff probate attorneys can represent you in each phase of this process. We can help you carry out your duties as the appointed executor, help you register an objection to a will, or defend against unscrupulous objections to a will you know to be valid.
How to Avoid Probate in Kentucky
As you can see, probate is not an expedient process, and there are many points where objections can threaten to derail the proceedings and endanger the decedent’s intentions from being honored. Probate disputes are also a matter of public record, leading to unfortunate airings of grievances and ugly litigation.
Many wish to bequeath their assets to their loved ones as quickly as possible. Doing so requires taking proactive steps to avoid probate.
One of the most reliable means of avoiding probate is through building a strong estate plan. A revocable living trust is an important piece of estate planning that operates similarly to a will. Unlike a will, a living trust’s contents are private and are not subject to probate. Many are able to circumvent the worst of probate by placing the bulk or entirety of their assets in a revocable living trust, which they can continue to modify while they are alive.
It is still a good idea to have a will in conjunction with a living trust. Your will can appoint an executor, name a guardian to any minor children, and cover any assets that did not make it into your trust before your death. This will help simplify the probate process – which again, cannot touch anything in your private trust – and keep anything from falling into intestacy.
We Can Help You Through Probate
The last thing you want to deal with while grieving the loss of a loved one is manage the affairs of probate. Our Radcliff probate lawyers at Musselwhite Meinhart & Staples are prepared to help you navigate the procedural messiness of probate and, where possible, proactively act to limit its impact. Our team has over 100 years of combined legal experience and have dealt with probate cases of all varieties, sizes, and complexities. We understand having to manage legal affairs in a turbulent moment can be trying. Our team wants to be there for you and your family and are prepared to give your case the individualized, compassionate attention it deserves.
Our law firm provides a full range of legal services to help you and your family achieve your goals. We speak your language. We are here to help you understand your legal options, what to expect and what steps we can take to protect you.
Our firm offers over the phone and video consultations for your safety and convenience. All consultations are free.
Our attorneys treat you like family. We care about helping you find the best resolution to your case.
We are accessible to our clients and are available 24/7.
Our attorneys offer honest advice and tailored solutions to your unique goals.
We are friendly and approachable lawyers who listen and understand your needs.
Our attorneys have decades of experience with successfully handling a variety of legal matters.