Catherine H. Kennedy
Cathy Kennedy is recognized throughout South Carolina for her expertise in probate and trust matters. She has experience from both sides of the bench. From 1987 to 1999, Cathy served as probate court judge in Columbia, S.C., one of the largest probate courts in the state. She was active in the National College of Probate Judges and served on the Executive Committee of the South Carolina Probate Judges’ Association, where she chaired the Probate Code and the Forms Committees.
Now in private practice, Cathy utilizes skills gained as a judge in representing individuals and fiduciaries in complicated probate and trust matters. Unlike many probate practitioners, Cathy assists in both uncontested and contested estates. She is ever mindful of the expense of litigation and attempts to bring a practical approach to the resolution of disputes. Knowing how litigation can damage relationships, Cathy served on a task force to implement a mediation program in the probate courts and assisted in drafting the rules for probate court mediation. She has a thriving alternative dispute resolution practice and takes great satisfaction in moving parties toward restoration of family bonds.
Cathy brings her wide and varied probate experience to bear in drafting estate plans. A former teacher, Cathy enjoys explaining complicated estate and tax concepts in understandable terms. She also advises many professionals in the intricacies of wealth protection planning. Knowing all too well what can go wrong in a poorly planned estate, Cathy counsels her clients, crafting a plan that achieves their goals during their lifetime and at death, avoids potential disputes and minimizes tax ramifications.
Cathy frequently testifies before legislative committees on changes in South Carolina probate and trust law, and often serves as an expert witness in probate matters. She served on the committee studying the Uniform Trust Code, which resulted in the enactment of the South Carolina Trust Code in 2005. She is currently chairing a committee of the South Carolina Bar to recommend changes to the South Carolina Probate Code and is the immediate past chair of the Probate Estate Planning and Trust section of the South Carolina Bar.
Cathy is a lifelong resident of Columbia. An avid gardener, she is past president of the Columbia Garden Club and has chaired the Board of the Columbia Garden Club Foundation. She is a member of the Columbia Rotary Club, where she previously chaired the Ambassadorial Scholarship Committee, and enjoys “ringing the bell” for the Salvation Army each Christmas season. As a member of the House Corporation for the Chi Omega chapter at the University of South Carolina, Cathy is most proud of the house that the corporation erected in the Greek Village on the USC campus.
“I utilize my varied experiences – as a teacher, a judge, a practicing attorney, a mediator, and a parent of three grown children – to counsel and guide my clients toward solutions for their concerns.”
Represented an incapacitated wife, through her conservator, in seeking an elective share against her husband’s estate. The husband’s will left nothing to the wife, and although the husband created a revocable trust and a subsequent sub-trust for the wife, this sub-trust only provided the wife income from one-third of the trust assets, a minimal amount. Contrary to how most South Carolina estate planners would have handled the case, Cathy successfully argued in the probate court that the sub-trust did not satisfy the South Carolina elective share. The case was settled on appeal providing the wife with her elective share in cash, thus enabling her family to provide for her care.
Counseled the parents of a young man who had no will and was tragically killed. The son was separated from his wife, and had moved to another state. Under the law of the wife’s domicile, she was the sole heir of the multi-million dollar estate. Under the law of the son’s new residence, the parents and the wife shared the estate assets. Recognizing this distinction, Cathy guided the parents and their counsel in both the wife’s domicile and in the new state. Ultimately the parents were successful in obtaining their share of their son’s assets.
Represented a national bank serving as fiduciary in seeking a declaration of the appropriate beneficiary of a charitable trust when the beneficiary’s function changed over time.
Assisted a personal representative in seeking a court determination of the heirs and shares of a 95-year-old woman who died without a will, leaving 35 heirs at law.
Advises clients on the intricacies of closing out a loved one’s affairs, including estate tax and income tax consequences, paying creditors and transferring assets according to the will or South Carolina intestacy law.
Regularly counsels professionals in ordering their affairs by re-titling assets and creating entities to minimize exposure to creditors during life and in creating documents to accomplish their personal objectives and to minimize estate taxes at death.
Prepares supplemental needs trusts to enable family members to provide assets for a disabled person while protecting the disabled person’s ability to receive governmental benefits.
Drafts and negotiates pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements to accomplish marital goals and to take into account spousal rights during life and at death.