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Articles Posted in Estates

By Nathan Vinson, Attorney and Partner
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

estate planWe’ve had lots and lots of questions about the new tax law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in late 2017. It is a large, complicated and sweeping bill that the average person may have some trouble deciphering, which is understandable. We wanted to tackle here what we see as one of the major benefits for those planning their estates: doubling the exemption for estate taxes.

If you’re looking to a solid guide to all of the tax law changes, read The Motley Fool’s take on it here.

In 2011, this base was set at $5 million, and it was indexed for inflation, meaning that you could leave up to $5 million (plus the adjustment for inflation) to your heirs and your estate would pay no estate tax. For tax year 2017, that amount was $5.49 million once adjusted for inflation.

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By Leah Morrison, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

trustsWhen it comes to planning to avoid or minimize Federal Estate tax, there are four (almost) magic words that frequently appear in trust documents: health, education, support and maintenance, known in the trust and estate law industry as HEMS. Outside of the tax advantages of including HEMS in a trust document, these words also impact the administration of the trust. When a trust includes HEMS language, beneficiaries from the trust may receive funds from the trust for those type of expenses, and those only.

A trustee is placed in charge of the trust. That trustee usually has broad latitude in determining how many distributions are made from the trust and in what amounts – but HEMS language is included to limit what those distributions may be used for. Trustees must ensure that the distributions fall under those categories. Trustees are often a lay person, and in many cases, a family member. This can make things particularly sticky and confusing, especially if there are disagreements among family members.

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

will

Prince performing in concert in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Bob Young.

It’s been more than a year since music legend Prince died unexpectedly at his home in Minnesota. He was actively touring and working at the time of his death on April 21, 2016, at the young age of 57.

You’re forgiven if you assumed his estate was long settled, since he died more than a year ago. But it’s not done yet – and may not be for quite a while – due to the fact that he died without a will.

It’s astounding to think that someone who is as famous, prosperous and with as many assets as Prince would die without this basic legal document. But as it turns out, he’s no different than anyone else – he probably didn’t want to think about death.

Whether you die a famous millionaire or with few assets, if you don’t have a Will you can leave a large mess. Heirs you would have never wanted to have your property could get it. Your estate will spend more probating your assets as well, and those who you wished to receive items from your estate may never see them.

Prince was a very charitable man, yet none of his millions he had nor future royalties will benefit those he likely would have preferred to benefit. Plus, the estate will shell out much more than anyone would want to pay in estate taxes.

Your children and family will be far happier if you take care of this before you die – and there’s no doubt it will bring you piece of mind, too.

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Most people who have considered making an estate plan or who have already made such a plan, whether simple or complex in nature, are familiar with a living will directive. By Kentucky statute, a living will directive may designate a health care surrogate to make decisions for a person when that person is incapacitated or in a vegetative state. The Living Will Directive may state a person’s wishes regarding life-prolonging treatment, artificially provided nutrition, or donating all or part or all of a person’s body. Living will directives are very common in estate planning.

Most people also know what a do-not-resuscitate order is, but in Kentucky, putting one into legal and practical effect appears to be a little tricky. The only direct, standalone authority for mandatory recognition of a do-not-resuscitate order in Kentucky is a statute authorizing a Kentucky Emergency Medical Services Do Not Resuscitate Order. Therefore, an EMS DNR. The statute requires the EMS DNR to be embodied on a standard form approved by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure (click here for form). An EMS DNR, however, only applies to EMS personnel in a pre-hospital setting. From the living room floor to the doors of the hospital, the EMS DNR controls. Once you are in the hospital, assuming you made it that far, the EMS DNR has no effect or control.

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By Nathan Vinson, attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

estate debtWhen a spouse, parent or child passes away, it’s incredibly difficult to handle. Beyond your own grief, planning the funeral and handling a thousand different tasks, you may receive calls or letters from creditors who try to convince you that you should pay the debt of the person who died.

In one recent case, a widow received a collection letter from an agency that specializes in collecting debt for creditors of deceased people. The estate had been closed for about a year. She didn’t owe that debt, but the collection agency tried to convince her that she did.

Collecting decedent debts

By law, you don’t owe a debt for someone who died (unless, of course, you owed the debt jointly with the decedent or as a guarantor). Once the person passes away and the proper steps have been taken to handle the probate estate, the opportunity for a creditor to collect unsecured debt is gone.

Credit agencies, especially the less reputable ones, may use all manner of intimidation and even threats to get people to pay debts. These calls can be troubling and confusing for people, especially those who are older or who don’t know the law. It’s important to understand how debt is collected to protect yourself and the people you love.

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney

English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley

business womanOwning a business is the American dream for many. It’s building something from your own hands that you’ve shaped and created. It’s long hours, and a labor of love – but in the end – it’s yours. And that’s a fantastic feeling if you’ve got an entrepreneurial streak.

But that feeling of ownership is what keeps a lot of business owners from planning for the future. It’s hard to envision a time when your business will go on without you. Your failure to plan for that inevitability is your biggest vulnerability as an entrepreneur, and can rob you of the equity you’ve built over the years of business ownership.

The best succession plan is one that you make before you need it. It’s on the shelf, ready to go, should something happen to you or other key business owners or managers. It is also a living plan, though, that you should review at least annually and update as needed, just as you would with any other estate documents such as a will or trust.

Even if you don’t see yourself ever leaving your business, creating a plan is a good exercise in thinking about the strategy and purpose of your business, your role in it and the importance of having key people to help you execute your vision. You may find this article from the Small Business Administration on how to exit your business helpful.

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By Nathan Vinson

elderly womanBetween our phones and our e-mail, everyone in America (and likely around the world) is hit with scams every day. We’re promised millions by the wife of a dead African dictator, or told that the caller is from the IRS and needs payment of back taxes immediately. Door-to-door sales people tell us there is something wrong with our roof. Insurance flyers attempt to scare us into thinking that something horrible will happen if we don’t buy their insurance.

Most of us brush this stuff off without a thought. We hang up on the scammers, delete those spam e-mails and move on. But for the elderly, it’s hard to tell the difference between a genuine offer that needs our attention and fraud.

While we all fear looking stupid or gullible, what’s truly frightening for an elderly person is the prospect of looking dumb in front of someone we love and trust. Asking for help as you get older is difficult. Scammers know this – and push the elderly into it by insisting their offer is for a limited time or that dire consequences can result if they don’t act right now.

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By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

will

Prince performing in concert in Louisville, Kentucky. Photo by Bob Young.

News reports since Prince’s death have indicated he died intestate – which means without a will. It’s hard to imagine someone who had complex dealings with the music world and a sizable fortune not having this very basic legal document.

You’re talking about a guy who changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol in a contract dispute with Warner Brothers (finally settled in 2014) and put out albums under the symbol name – and never seemed to lose credibility or popularity because of it. His cool factor really has nothing to do with legal issues. As a fellow musician, I just stand in awe of anyone who has such a long, productive career and had such a strong fan base that lasted decades.

Think of the legality of changing your name to a symbol and continuing to produce records. It probably gave his business and legal advisors some heartburn. Lawyers were likely involved in many aspects of his musical career, determining usage rights, negotiating record deals, negotiating with booking agents for venues and many, many other things. He had employees certainly and probably more than one business entity. It was a complex life.

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2016.04.12 Rebecca Simpson - resizedWe’re pleased to welcome Rebecca Simpson, who joined our firm as a senior attorney on April 18, 2016. Rebecca was most recently an attorney for Kentucky Legal Aid. She ran for Warren County Family Court Judge in 2014. She will serve as an estate planning attorney, among other roles.

For ELPO, Rebecca will be practicing in estate law, family law and will offer mediation services. Her family law practice will encompass adoption, business valuation, child support, custody issues, divorce, parent relocation and property division, among other services. She will also provide mediation services in family law and estate cases.

Rebecca is a Bowling Green native. She graduated from Western Kentucky University with highest honors and earned a full academic scholarship to Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville. After graduating with honors from Brandeis law school, Rebecca began her legal career in Louisville, Kentucky where she focused her practice on family law and enjoyed a thriving private practice.

By Nathan Vinson, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley

lottery tix photoWe all would love a nice windfall of unexpected money. Whether that’s winning the lottery, receiving an inheritance or taking home a fat prize from a TV quiz show, it’s nice to think about what we might do with sudden wealth that we didn’t really do much to earn, and comes in a large lump sum.

In the case of lottery or quiz show winners, the first thing you want to do is tell everyone because you are excited. But that’s a mistake – a big one. When people know that you have an unexpected amount of cash coming your way, people you haven’t heard from in years will ask you for money. Also expect that your everyday friends may ask for money – and it may surprise you who makes that ask. Then comes the charities and those who represent those organizations.

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