How the probate process works in Kentucky

On Behalf of | Apr 13, 2023 | Estate Planning, Probate

Kentucky allows the estate to go through probate up to ten years after the decedent dies. As with many complicated legal processes, there will likely be delays and setbacks along the way, so it is best not to wait until the final days to complete it in probate court. The process involves proving the will is valid and executing it while addressing all debts, affairs and assets.

To better understand the steps, we’ve provided a brief overview.

There are four main steps

Once the executor (often with the help of a representative) establishes the proper jurisdiction for probate, the general process is as follows:

  1. Petition to open probate:  The process begins by requesting a court hearing where the judge approves the executor. The executor notifies heirs and creditors of the death. They traditionally also publish an announcement in the local newspaper. The original will should be filed with the petition. The executor should also obtain a federal tax ID number from the IRS and then open a bank account for the estate.
  2. Inventory filing: The executor must file a complete estate inventory within 60 days of being officially appointed. This includes itemizing assets, personal items and things listed in the will. It should also contain everything of significant value the decedent left behind. A completely accurate inventory may be impossible, but it should be based on the best available information.
  3. Settling the estate: The executor must pay any outstanding debts and make every effort to recover money owed to the decedent. They also pay bills related to medical care and the funeral. There are no state estate taxes.
  4. Closing the estate: Depending upon the size and complexity of the estate, it can be a Formal Final Settlement or an Informal Final Settlement process. The latter involves a simple form signed by the executor informing the court that the process is complete. The form includes the signatures of beneficiaries stating that they are satisfied. The Formal Final Settlement is a much more complicated process that involves providing the courts and beneficiaries with all relevant information about the estate. Parties can then respond. Disputes may include a court hearing.

Executors have a fiduciary duty

It is essential to keep careful records throughout the process. Doing this can help minimize questions and disputes related to the executor’s fiduciary duty while doing the job. In order to protect themselves against unnecessary accusations of bias or corruption, executors often also get help from estate law attorneys to provide skilled and unbiased guidance.