Estate Planning Awareness Week

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Hart-Bradford House. Library of Congress.
In the opening chapter of Lost Lexington, I wrote that Thomas Hart left to his wife a life estate "in the house and lot which I at present occupy." At first blush, one might believe that a life estate was given to his wife in the Hart-Bradford House that housed such significant history. But both Hart's last will and testament and its probate were after Thomas Hart had transferred, by deed, the residence at the southwest corner of Second and Mill streets to his son. Thomas Hart left his wife a life estate in a different residence than the infamous home that was the site of Henry Clay's nuptials, the home of Laura Clay, and since the 1950s the site of a parking lot.

Examining the historic places of Kentucky inevitably brings one to deed books and recorded wills that reveal much about the history of place. Sometimes, a last will and testament will reveal something about the testator (the person making the will) as well.

Henry Clay
Take for example, Henry Clay. Clay was a slaveowner having owned as many as 60 slaves during his lifetime. His will provided for his slaves manumission (or gradual emancipation) upon their achieving a certain age. The intent would be to ensure that each slave would be provided with basic shelter, food, etc. until they were 25 (females) or 28 (males). Further, Clay favored the removal of blacks from North America and their return to Africa. To accomplish this aim for his former slaves, Clay provided that "the three years next preceding their arrival at the age of freedom, they shall be entitled to their hire to wages or those years ... to delay the expense of transporting them to the one of the African Colonies."

These provision, fortunately, have no place in a last will and testament today. But these lessons from the past are reminders for the present and for the future: estate planning is important no matter our circumstances.

Even though estate planning is for everyone, the majority of Kentuckians (and Americans, generally) do not have their estate plans in order. This can create confusion after death with the disposal of property and the guardianship of minor children, and it can lead to unnecessary costs as well. Neither is something you want to leave behind for your grieving loved ones.

Congress recognized the importance of Estate Planning and proclaimed the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. In 2017, that's October 16-22.

Two statues, a military heritage commission, and the telling of history

Kentucky Revised Code. Legislative Research Commission.
The Kentucky Military Heritage Commission, until recently, was a little-known state agency. Over the past week, the Commission has received quite a bit of news, both locally and nationally, as Lexington considers what to do with two statutes presently standing in the public square.

Yesterday's unanimous vote by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council was to "support the relocation" of the two statutes, a decision that will ultimately be made by the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission.

The Statues

The two statues at issue are of John C. Breckinridge and John Hunt Morgan. Both men were slaveowners who took up arms against the United States during the Civil War. Both men came from prominent, white Lexington families who were instrumental in Lexington's 19th century growth and prominence (that familial success being achieved largely through the involuntary toil of slaves owned by the respective families).

An Unusual Landmark: Lexington's Miller House

The Miller House - 832 Lochmere Place, Lexington, Ky. Zillow
In 1988, Robert and Penny Miller commissioned José Oubrerie to design and build for them a home on a twenty-acre tract for them in what was then a rural part of Fayette County, Kentucky. An essay by John McMorrough contained in the book, Et in Suburbia Ego: José Oubrerie's Miller House, describes some of the Miller's ambitions with the project.

Oubrerie "liked Aldo van Eyck 's idea of 'a city is like a house, a house is like a city' and so he designed a structure where each resident might have their "own little house" "inside the citadel." While public or common areas dominate the ground level, each person would have their own exit from their "little house" allowing each occupant to have full independence from the other residents. With grown children, the Miller's sought that each member of the family could have their own space.

As the home rose from the ground, the fluid design continued to change. According to Oubrerie, this was a source of consternation among contractors but was one of the lessons the architect had learned from his mentor, LeCorbusier: "as long as something is not built, there is still time." In the design of the Miller House, the approach worked because the parts of the house were disassociated from one another. As new elements were introduced into the project, the site changed creating what Oubrerie called a "creative construction process."

The result is José Oubrerie's masterpiece.

A Day Journal: Lexington by Bike

For those that have followed this blog for some time, you know I think that Lexington is an amazing city. Whenever my sister comes to visit, I love taking her on a bike ride to show her what has changed in the city where we spent so many years growing up. So we did Lexington by bike.

We ventured recently on a 5-hour, 10.4 mile tour (no-destination-style at an ultra-leisurely pace) with just a couple of targets in mind: we wanted to enjoy a couple brews from stops on the Brewgrass Trail. I wanted to show her what's going on in the Distillery District and we wanted to pass our old Kentucky home.

We pulled our bikes off the bike rack where we parked on North Limestone in front of LTMS. We passed the old the old Episcopal mission on Fourth Street before cutting through the campus of Transylvania University and beside Old Morrison.
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