Dealing with an estate can be a very trying event, both emotionally and financially. If you are looking for an experienced Lexington probate attorney, you’ve come to the right place. Please read through the following FAQs, then give us a call at (859) 259-0727 to set up a free, confidential legal consultation. We look forward to speaking with you.
What is probate?
Probate is a court-supervised process of distributing the assets and estate of a person who has recently died. In the case where there is a will, it is making sure that the wishes outlined in the will are carried out. In cases without a will, it is a process where the assets are distributed in accordance with state intestacy laws. Usually all of this will involve the appointment of an executor (someone named in a will to distribute the assets) or an administrator (in cases without wills), a valuation of the estate, and a supervision of the process.
The Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts has a basic guide that can help get you familiar with some parts of the procedure and terminology. You can access the guide here.
Is probate necessary?
Probate is not always necessary. If the person who died did not have any assets to transfer or debts to settle then going through probate would not be needed.
Does life insurance or retirement benefits need to go through probate?
Life insurance or other similar benefits are payable directly to the beneficiary and do not go through the probate process.
How long will probate take?
It takes a minimum of six months before a final settlement can be filed with the court and a probate case is over. It actual time it may take can vary and is dependent on the size and complexity of the estate.
What is the job of a personal representative do?
A personal representative is the person who is responsible for the administration of the estate. They locate and value assets, take payments on behalf of the estate, distribute assets according to the will or intestacy laws, give notice to creditors of the estate, pay valid outstanding claims against the estate, file state and federal taxes for the estate, and ultimately file receipts and details of all distribution of assets with the court to settle the estate.
Can a personal representative be held liable if they make a mistake?
It depends. There are certainly situations where a personal representative can be held personally liable, but the exact specifics of that depend greatly on the situation. If you are a personal representative and are concerned about personal liability, please contact us.
Can someone object to the will?
Yes. An interested party can object to a provision of the will. When this happens, it may then become necessary to litigate the will, and there are a number of grounds for doing so. If you are a personal representative or a potential beneficiary under a will and you have a question about will contests, it would be best to speak with an attorney.
What if the person died without a will?
Then the person is said to have “intestate.” That means that the person’s estate will be distributed according to state intestacy law.
How are creditors of the estate paid?
Generally all creditors are going to be given notice of the death. This can be done directly (such as the personal representative notifying the creditor) or through publication in a newspaper. Creditors then have six months to file claims against the estate. Claims that are valid and filed are then paid from assets in the estate either until the creditors are satisfied or until the estate is extinguished.
What about taxes?
There are both state and federal tax issues at play. State taxation issues usually center around gift and inheritance taxes and federal tax questions involve inheritance as well as estate taxation (for larger estates). Income tax will also need to be filed for the estate, and any outstanding tax issues (such as if the decedent failed to file any income tax for prior years) will need to be addressed by the personal representative.
My spouse died with significant debts. Am I responsible for paying them?
It is a possibility. If your name is also on the account in question, then the creditor may seek to get you to pay the debt.
How can I find out if there was a Will?
Contact the decedent’s attorney, if known, to find out if he had a will prepared. If not, you might check with the district court in the county where the decedent lived to see if one was one file there, or simply look through the decedent’s things to see if you can find one.
Please call us at 859-259-0727 or e-mail us to set up a free, confidential legal consultation!
Baldani, Rowland & Richardson, Attorneys at Law
300 W Short St Lexington, Kentucky 40507
Hours: 8:30AM—5:00PM and by appointment
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