How Probate Works in Kentucky
February 7th, 2023 by Bunch & Brock
Mourning the loss of a loved one is never an easy process. Having to deal with probate issues can make grieving even more difficult because of the added stress of managing an estate through probate.
Understanding the probate process in Kentucky can be challenging, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the terminology and Kentucky probate laws. Simply put, probate is the legal process of settling an estate after someone dies.
Probate includes gathering the property and assets of the deceased person (the “decedent”). It also includes paying any debts and distributing what’s left according to the decedent’s final wishes.
Kentucky probate law is designed to ensure that the assets of the estate remain in the correct hands and to prevent fraud. The probate process works by establishing a court-appointed representative who, acting in good faith, manages the affairs of the decedent’s estate and notifies all interested parties.
How to Probate a Will in Kentucky
The probate process starts with finding a will. If a will exists, the next step is filing a petition with a District Court using form AOC-805. This petition asks the court for permission to admit the will to probate and appoint an executor or executrix to administer and settle the estate.
How Can You Prove There is a Will?
When it comes to proving a will in court, the process varies depending on what kind of will the decedent made. If it is a ‘self-proved will’, it must be signed by the decedent and two witnesses. The will must include specific language as set by local state statutes.
On the other hand, if it is a holographic will, which is entirely handwritten by the decedent, all that is required from witnesses to prove its credibility is proof of their handwriting which must come from someone familiar with their writing style. Whatever may be the case, each kind of will must abide by the state laws and regulations of Kentucky.
In cases where there is no will, the same AOC-805 petition asks that the court assign an administrator to handle the finances of the deceased. It is important to note that both executors and administrators are referred to as personal representatives by law.
How to Probate an Estate in Kentucky
The probate of an estate involves winding up financial matters, collecting all assets, paying debts, and distributing remaining assets according to the decedent’s wishes as indicated in their will, or state law when there is no will.
An executor or administrator must carefully oversee each step of this matter to ensure it is done correctly and lawfully for beneficiaries to receive what has been left for them.
Finalizing an estate requires extensive planning and coordination. A judge must review the will (if one exists) and confirm that the required parties have been notified. Additionally, identification and appraisal of all assets need to take place before creditors and taxes can be paid.
Once these conditions have been met, a judge will allow the property of the estate to be distributed to the heirs and close probate.
How to Administrate an Estate in Kentucky
Administrating an estate can come with many responsibilities. The personal representative must take over the assets of the decedent, manage and protect those assets, as well as act in good faith for the creditors and heirs.
After taking on these responsibilities, they must also file a detailed inventory of the assets within 60 days and use Form AOC-841 to do so. The inventory should reflect the value of the assets at the time of death. Properly administering an estate requires diligence and attention to detail.
What Does it Mean to Settle an Estate?
After the debts and taxes have been paid off and the remaining assets distributed, the personal representative must put together a final settlement with the court. All relevant forms and documents must be filed, including the form AOC-846.
Settlements must take place at least six months from the appointment of the personal representative to ensure restraint in serving. In circumstances where the settling of the estate could take longer than two years, periodic settlements may have to be made before it can be finalized. All necessary paperwork must be fulfilled before settling an estate to properly close it.
How are Assets Distributed through Probate in Kentucky?
In general, the assets of an estate must be distributed in the order of estate administration costs, family allowances, funeral expenses, taxes, and debts. After creditors have been paid, whatever remains is distributed to the beneficiaries outlined in a valid will. If there is no surviving spouse or children, the assets may be distributed to other relatives of the decedent, as determined by the court.
How Long Does Probate Take in Kentucky?
Navigating the probate process in Kentucky can be a daunting task, as it requires both time and dedication. Though there is no one-size-fits-all answer for how long probate might take, Kentucky Revised Statutes 395.190 states that probate must remain open for a minimum of six months.
However, depending on the size and complexity of the estate, this timeline can easily stretch to eight or more months at times–especially if litigation arises during proceedings.
There are a few reasons why the timeline would be extended. For example, disagreements between parties, difficulties locating heirs or beneficiaries, or other issues specific to the estate itself can cause probate to remain open.
Getting Help from Kentucky Probate Lawyers
For residents of Kentucky, going through the probate process can be a long and complex journey. Whether you’re an heir who needs assistance dealing with an estate or a personal representative who wants help navigating Kentucky probate law, seeking professional guidance is always recommended.
Our experienced team of probate lawyers at Bunch & Brock recognizes the challenges of probate and estate planning and we seek to provide relief in every way possible.
Our attorneys are highly knowledgeable in estate law and understand the importance of settling these matters swiftly and honestly.
We strive to support our clients through this difficult time by providing quality service that facilitates an efficient resolution for all parties involved. Contact us today to learn how we can help by calling 859-254-5522.