In this day and age, there are many things happening around the world that can make people hesitant about planning for the future. But when it comes to taking care of your loved ones after you are no longer here, there should be no question about making a plan that they will be able to count on.

For Kentucky residents of Louisville and Bowling Green, it is important to find out what documents are essential to a comprehensive estate plan that not only factor in the inheritance of assets but also other important considerations, such as taking care of minor children, managing long term health needs, or finding ways of lowering the tax burden on the estate.

Why is having a will essential?

A will is an important foundation of estate planning for many reasons. It is essentially a legal document an individual, called the testator, creates which names their chosen personal representative (PR) who will oversee the administration of the estate after death. The will activates on the death of the testator, and probate court estate administration begins through the appointment of the named PR.

A will also states the testator’s intentions regarding the distribution of assets and the future care of minor children. Provisions in a will may allow the funneling of assets through a trust as well to minimize probate administration and taxes, or to provide for other loved ones.

What happens if the deceased does not have a will?

Without a will, the estate will still go through probate, but it is the court that will decide who will administer it and where the assets will end up based on the laws of intestacy. In Kentucky, the decedent’s estate assets will automatically go to the spouse and children. If there are no children, the parents of the decedent, if living, inherit the portion not allocated to the children. These and any other allocations are automatic, and the PR overseeing them may be someone the decedent never even knew in life.

Any surviving minor children will become wards of the state without provisions for them unless a relative or family friend steps up to petition the court for guardianship. Even if a portion of the estate goes to them, this amount may not provide for the children’s needs over the long term, which would put an additional financial burden on the guardian to support them.

Although a will is just the first of several important documents necessary for individuals to wisely plan for the future, it does provide a foundation for people who want choices in how they will leave their worldly goods.