People plan for many things-vacations, college, retirement. If an individual avoids end-of-life planning and passes away with no will in Kentucky, the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) dictate that person's rightful heirs.
Determining rightful heirs without a will can be complex because numerous Kentucky estate laws govern intestate succession in the state. If you believe you are entitled to inherit without a will in Kentucky-or if you want to avoid passing away without a will-it is wise to consult with an experienced Kentucky probate attorney.
No Will in Kentucky, but Many Legal Requirements
In addition to triggering a roller coaster of emotions, the passing of a loved one imposes the burden of winding up that person's affairs. This process can include paying creditors, filing tax returns , and distributing real and personal property. When there is a last will and testament (will), the deceased's final wishes are known, and will be carried out once probate is complete. When there is no will in Kentucky, Kentucky dower law and Kentucky estate laws determine how the deceased's probate estate should be distributed.
Will or No Will in Kentucky, You May Need to Probate
"Probate" is a term commonly associated with managing a decedent's estate. It refers to the process of proving the validity of a will before a court of law. If there is no valid will, state intestacy laws step into that void, and the closest family members typically inherit without a will in Kentucky. Assets transferred through a will or intestacy are subject to this judicial process.
However, not all property is subject to probate; there are ways to inherit without a will in Kentucky. These strategies allow ownership to be automatically assigned to a designated individual and avoid probate, with appropriate planning. Life insurance benefits and retirement accounts are examples of estate planning devices that pass property directly to a beneficiary.
Protecting Spouses When There Is No Will in Kentucky
When a person dies without a will, they are legally described as having died "intestate." To inherit without a will in Kentucky, very specific Kentucky estate laws apply, especially regarding spousal inheritance.
Kentucky is one of only a handful of states that still follows dower and curtesy laws. These laws ensure that a spouse inherits his or her fair share of the deceased spouse's wealth subject to probate. Kentucky spouses inherit 50 percent, or one-half, of a spouse's personal property and one-third to one-half of real property.
Kentucky dower law also provides other spousal protections. The surviving spouse may petition the court to receive the first $15,000 of the deceased spouse's personal property without affecting his or her right to a share of the remainder. Also, a surviving spouse may renounce real estate bequeathed through a valid will in favor of applying Kentucky dower law, but the inheritance will be limited to one-third of the real property of the estate.
The Legal Formula for Inheriting without a Will in Kentucky
Detailed and complex Kentucky estate laws determine who is an intestate heir according to familial relationships-spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, cousins, etc.
After complying with Kentucky dower law, intestate property is distributed to surviving relatives starting with the closest family members and reaching out to more distant relations as needed-all as defined by law. The statute goes to great lengths to identify recipients, but if no relative survives the decedent, the estate's assets will escheat, or be turned over to the state treasury.
When applying Kentucky estate laws, numerous scenarios and issues can emerge. Representation by a seasoned Kentucky probate attorney may be essential to ensuring proper distribution.
Rightful Heirs Defined by Law
Kentucky law broadly defines certain family relationships in order to avoid unnecessarily disinheriting a legitimate family member while specifically excluding others:
- Children are not limited to biological children-they include those adopted as well as those born posthumously or outside of marriage, but do not include foster or stepchildren.
- Citizenship has no bearing on eligibility to inherit-citizens, resident-aliens, and those illegally in the country may inherit from intestate estates
- Spouses who have divorced or committed adultery forfeit their inheritance rights
- Relations who are half-blood relatives receive only half of an inheritance share
Protect Your Interests When a Relative Passes without a Will
Tying up the loose ends after a loved one passes away is stressful and complicated. When that loved one dies without a will, it is even more complex. The professionals at Jenkins Fenstermaker, PLLC can help ease this process by identifying how property will be distributed when there is no will in Kentucky. Our experienced attorneys also distinguish between probate and non-probate assets, assess federal and state tax liabilities, and provide representation in all administrative and judicial hearings. To consult with a Jenkins Fenstermaker Kentucky probate attorney, like Anna Melissa Price, complete this convenient online form or call (866) 617-4736.