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How do you settle an estate in Kentucky?

When a loved one dies, you may be responsible to settle the estate. To help you navigate the settlement, the Kentucky Court of Justice has published some guidelines regarding probate procedures.

The Chief Justice introduces the process by defining the term "probate" simply as "settling and administering estates, guardianships, curatorships and name changes." His simple description hopefully makes the protocol seem more routine and less intimidating for you. In addition, he lays out the general responsibilities you may have as an administrator, giving clear guidance for where to start. 

The steps you may want to take include the following:

  • Locate the will
  • File a petition in district court to accept the will and appoint the executor
  • Take care of all financial matters
  • Distribute any assets that remain
  • File the final settlement in district court

The will is of utmost importance in the probate process. In Kentucky, courts recognize holographic wills, those a loved one writes by hand. The Court of Justice notes the validity of holographic documents requires the decedent to have written the entire will by hand, signed it and dated it. If the will is a typed document, the Court of Justice stipulates the need for two signatures verified by a notary. Without a will, you or someone in your family can likely still administer the estate if you first request a judge to appoint someone to the position of executor. 

After the court has admitted the will and the administrator begins his or her duties, the primary focus is on managing the decedent's assets. If you are the executor, note the Kentucky Court of Justice's emphasis on first collecting any assets due to the decedent and then settling all debts prior to distributing those assets. Debts may include outstanding medical expenses, funeral costs, taxes or other bills the decedent left unpaid. 

The last step you may need to take is filing the final settlement in court. A probate judge may allow a formal or informal settlement, depending on the circumstances of the estate.

This information intends only to educate regarding the probate process and should not be interpreted as legal advice.


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