Families understand the importance of a will. A comprehensive will allows a person (the decedent) a final goodbye, provides instructions for funeral arrangements and outlines how they want the probate court to divide their estate among heirs.
A person loses out on these opportunities when they die without a will (intestate). Their estate enters into probate court without express instruction. So how do these courts distribute the estate among heirs?
Kentucky’s probate process for intestate succession
When a person dies in Kentucky, their heirs must follow a few steps before receiving their shares:
- File a petition: The heirs must notify the probate courts of the death via petition. The courts require the heirs to name a personal representative who will administer the estate.
- Inventory the estate: The personal representative must file a complete inventory of the decedent’s estate with the probate court. The administrator has two months to complete this task.
- Detail the estate distribution: The probate courts require an accounting of the division of the estate. Representatives must include a detailed list of debts, settlement solutions, liquidated assets, and the value of what remains.
- Distribute the estate: The personal representative then distributes the estate according to Kentucky’s intestate succession laws. Without a will, the estate must satisfy debts and taxes before distributing the remainder among heirs.
Kentucky intestate succession follows a set of firm rules that account for most family makeups, but not always. Probate courts generally distribute half the remaining estate to the surviving spouse and half to the deceased’s heirs — first to descendants, then to surviving parents, then to surviving siblings. If the decedent has no living heirs, the entire estate goes to the state of Kentucky.
Legal counsel can help families
When working with the decedent’s estate, creditor and taxes, a personal representative will likely discover many complex legal issues. Families can hire a local attorney familiar with probate law to help evaluate assets, deal with creditors and navigate the probate process.