When a person passes away, their assets must be disbursed according to their estate plan and, when applicable, state laws and probate. At Fred Simon Law, I help executors of Wills or beneficiaries of an estate through the probate process. Starting with identifying estate assets and ending with the distribution of assets and inheritances to the beneficiaries. Contact me by either using the online form or calling me directly at (502) 558-8576 to schedule a Consultation and learn more.
Overview of Probate in Kentucky?
Probate is the process by which a deceased person's assets and belongings, known as their estate, are passed on to their heirs and successors. In Kentucky, most matters related to wills, estates, and guardianships are handled in the probate division of each County's District Court.
Both the probate process and outcomes can look very different, depending on whether the person who died (called a "decedent") had a valid Will at the time of death.
The Early Stages of Probate
Although the term "probate" actually refers to the process by which a Will is produced before a court and the required proof or evidence that is necessary to be presented in order validate or prove the document to be valid, the word now generally has come to mean the filing of a case or an estate for a deceased person.
The probate process begins after the decedent passes away and a petition is filed with the proper court to have an estate created or opened. The first step is to identify the personal representative of the decedent's estate.
- If there is a Will, the personal representative will likely be the executor named in it.
- If there is not a Will, the probate judge might be inclined to appoint the person who filed the application to open the estate as personal representative (called an administrator). However, this might not always be the situation since all known heirs of the estate are entitled to notice of the application and are offered the opportunity to respond.
Once a personal representative is approved or appointed by the court, the he or she must:
- Locate and secure all assets;
- Establish and maintain an estate bank account for all transactions;
- Take inventory of the estate (e.g. bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks and bonds, real estate, personal effects); and
- Monitor, maintain and protect all estate assets.
How probate administration proceeds depends in a large degree on whether there is a Will or not.
Probate with a Will
If the decedent died with a Will, the original Will must be filed with the court and authenticated before its terms are put into action. This process may involve a court hearing where witnesses at the signing of the Will would testify. However, today most Wills are self-proven meaning that all signatures were also notarized when signed and therefore authenticated by law.
In Kentucky, no challenges to the Will can be made based on allegations of undue influence, fraud, or misrepresentation in the probate division of District Court. Any person seeking to invalidate the Will offered to probate court.must bring an action in the Circuit Court.
If the probate court decides the Will is valid, the executor can pay debts, bills, and applicable taxes, and distribute assets.
Probate without a Will
If there is no Will, the decedent is said to have died intestate. This does not mean their assets will not be inherited, it just means their property will pass to their heirs through Kentucky's intestacy laws.
Once the administrator has located all the decedent's assets and paid the creditors, the personal representative will make arrangements to use Kentucky's laws of intestacy and distribute the estate to the decedent's heirs.
The End Stage of Probate
Once debt and bills are paid and the remaining assets are distributed, the personal representative will prepare the appropriate settlement to the court. At that time, the personal representative will ask the court to close the estate and release the individual from his or her role as executor or administrator.
Do You Need a Probate Lawyer in Louisville?
Whether you need a probate lawyer depends on how well the estate plan was set up. Regardless, a probate lawyer offers important services that can help speed up the probate process. A probate lawyer can help with the:
- Collection of proceeds from life insurance policies
- Identification and securing of estate assets
- Appraisals for the decedent's real property
- Payment of bills, debts, and applicable taxes
- Resolution of any income or estate tax issue
- Preparation and filing of all documents required by a probate court
- Management of the estate checking account
- Transfer of assets to beneficiaries or heirs
Contact a Probate Lawyer in Kentucky Today
We are here to help you with your estate plan so that it easily moves through the probate process. If you are the executor or beneficiary of an estate, I can also guide you through the probate process. If you have questions, contact Fred Simon Law either online or at (502) 558-8576 to schedule a Consultation with our estate planning lawyer today.