Occasionally, a question comes up about opening a “small estate” in Kentucky. The situation might pertain to where a spouse dies (with or without a Last Will and Testament) and only leaves a car and a bank account in his individual name. All other property might be owned jointly with the surviving spouse, is transferable or payable on death, or would not be considered part of the probate estate because it involves life insurance or a retirement benefit (IRA or 401k) designating a named beneficiary. Is it possible to avoid the process and expense of filing a petition to appoint a personal representative to carry out the administrative duties required in estates containing significantly more assets?
Although some states have laws that permit the filing of an application to administer estates of lesser value with streamlined procedures and minimal court involvement, Kentucky does not. Instead, Kentucky allows survivors to file a petition to dispense with administration and order that all assets be awarded to the surviving spouse, surviving children or, in particular circumstances, to the creditor of the deceased person.
Who can file a Kentucky Petition to Dispense with Administration?
Where an individual leaves behind assets with a total fair market value of less than Thirty Thousand Dollars ($30,000.00), it is possible to avoid creating a formal estate and having a personal representative appointed under Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 395.455. This law permits the transfer of assets without administration by virtue of the above exemption amount allowed to a surviving spouse or surviving children under KRS 391.030. Although the survivor exemption is not available to any other relative, anyone who advances funds to pay the funeral expenses, debts, or taxes of the deceased person under federal and Kentucky law may petition for the transfer of remaining assets if the surviving spouse or children (if any) waive the right to exemption.
Are there any Shortcomings to Dispensing with Administration?
Despite there may be significant benefits to dispensing with administration, the fact that a personal representative for the estate is not appointed as Executor or Administrator may be a problem. For example, if a check payable to the deceased person turns up, there will not be any proper way to negotiate (deposit or cash) it. Further, there may be difficulty conversing with insurance companies about death benefits or to access information about retirement accounts if no one is appointed to act for the estate. It is therefore always important to fully discuss if a petition to dispense is appropriate with an attorney before doing so.