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Information Updated: 11-5-2020
How to apply for Probate in Kentucky
First, you will need to determine whether probate is even necessary to handle the decedent’s estate, and one of the primary factors in this decision is if the estate has property that must pass through the probate process to legally pass on to the decedent’s heirs.
“Non-probate” property includes items that pass from the decedent to another person by a mechanism other than through probate. These items can include any of the following:
- Property that the decedent owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship with another person who is still alive, such as joint bank accounts and certain kinds of real estate. In those situations, upon the death of a joint owner, the decedent’s interest in jointly-owned property automatically passes to the surviving joint owner outside of probate.
- Assets such as retirement plans and life insurance policies that have beneficiary designations as part of the property contract. These items are distributed directly to the designated beneficiaries by the retirement plan or insurance company.
- Bank or investment accounts with “pay on death” or “transfer on death” features. These allow the owner to designate beneficiaries to receive these assets upon the account holder’s death, and these are transferred directly to the designated persons outside of probate.
- Properties that have been transferred into a trust prior to the decedent’s death. After the decedent’s death, these are handled and managed as provided for within the trust documents.
Typically, anything not described above is considered “probate” property, and it requires the Court to transfer ownership of these items to third parties.
Once you’ve determined whether probate is necessary, then you must gather the information necessary to start this process, including, but not limited to, the following:
- The Last Will and Testament of the decedent (if one exists);
- Any and all known property and assets owned by the decedent;
- Any and all known debts of the decedent; and
- Identifying all beneficiaries of the estate.
An attorney skilled in the probate process in Kentucky can advise you as to the full list of everything you need to gather prior to starting.
If you determine that probate is necessary, the process begins in Kentucky with the preparation of a Petition for Probate that is filed with the District Court in the county in which the decedent lived when they died. This Petition provides the Court with basic information regarding the estate, such as the decedent’s identity, date of death, whether a Will exists, the decedent’s next of kin, the proposed Executor or Administrator, and an estimate of the estate property and value.
Once this is filed, a hearing is scheduled for the judge to review the submitted documents to determine their validity, as well as to appoint the Executor or Administrator. Usually, the official representative of a decedent’s estate is called an Executor (or Executrix when the representative is a female) when the decedent died with a valid Last Will and Testament in place (in that case, the decedent died “testate”), and the official representative of a decedent’s estate is called an Administrator (or Administratrix when the representative is a female) when the decedent died without a will (in that case, the decedent died “intestate”).
When the Court appoints an Executor (or Administrator), estate has officially “opened”
If you are currently facing probate and need some assistance or have a property that needs to be sold, we work with estate owners in probate situations all the time. We also work with attorneys that specialize in probate and happy to connect you with legal experts. Please reach out to us, no obligation, if we can help or answer questions.