Wills and Trusts in Louisville, KY

Estate planning is not often on the top of the average person’s to-do list, but it’s something important that should be done not only to help you, but also your spouse and others you care about. Wills and trusts are legal documents that can put into action your plans to make a difference in the lives of people and organizations you care about in Louisville.

Estate planning can allow you to exercise some control over your assets after you pass away. Through wills and trusts, your assets can be used to serve the needs of others. Without a will, after your death what remains of your assets after debts and taxes are paid will go to your next of kin, in accordance with Kentucky law. If that’s not what you want, you should consider creating a will and/or a trust.

What Is a Will?

A will spells out your wishes about how your assets should be treated after your death. Under Kentucky law:

  • The person making will (the testator) must be mentally competent and at least 18 years old.
  • The document must be in writing, and the testator must sign it.
  • The signing of the will must occur in the presence of two witnesses, who also must sign the will.
  • To avoid potential legal complications, the people witnessing the testator’s signature should not be beneficiaries (someone listed in the will receiving assets from the estate).
  • A handwritten will (known as holographic will) may be valid under Kentucky law if a credible witness testifies that it is in the testator’s handwriting. A will can also be typed or printed, but an oral will (verbal statements by the testator) is not valid in Kentucky.

Through the probate process, the executor of the will (the person you name in the will to be responsible for handling your estate) determines whatever financial liabilities your estate has, pays them, then distributes your assets per your instructions.

Though technically there’s a relatively low bar for validity of a will under state law, the less formal it is, the more likely someone may challenge its validity and tie up the probate process in court. These kinds of legal challenges can be drawn out and expensive (with the costs of a legal defense coming out of the estate), so having a will done formally at our office can be a sound investment to try to prevent these kinds of expenses.

What Is a Trust?

A trust is a legally recognized arrangement where property is transferred to someone who holds and manages it for the benefit of a third party or parties. It’s a way to provide financial assistance or pay for some kind of help to a person or multiple people. A charitable organization can also be the beneficiary of a trust.

The person creating the trust is the trustor; the person managing the assets is the trustee; and those who benefit are the beneficiaries. The trustee’s actions must be in the interests of the beneficiaries; he or she cannot abuse the trust to benefit from it.

A trust can be irrevocable if the trustor gives up the power to end or change the trust. If the trustor has the ability to make changes, the trust is revocable. Which one is best for you depends on why you want the trust and who the beneficiaries are, because there are advantages and disadvantages to both types, depending on the circumstances.

There are many kinds of trusts, for a variety of purposes. They can be created during your lifetime, or through a will you can have your assets become the “res” of the estate (the property set aside to benefit others) through a pour-over trust. The res could also be the proceeds of a life insurance policy.

What You Should Do Next

Estate planning is something you know you should do. Through a will and trusts you can put your desire to help others into place. If you already have had these documents created but your circumstances have changed, you can change an existing will or create a new one; depending on the type of trust, you may be able to change that, too.

The experienced will and trust lawyers at McNeely Stephenson can help. We understand the legal and personal issues that can go into creating them and can guide you through the process. We will work closely with you and assist you in making the best decisions possible for your unique situation. We have worked with many families, and we look forward to working with yours. For skilled and knowledgeable representation, contact us by calling 812-725-8224 or filling out our online form. Based in New Albany, Indiana, we proudly serve the Louisville, KY, community.