Kentucky’s probate process is relatively simple compared to some other states. If the person named as executor in the will is the sole beneficiary, the court will accept an “informal settlement” of the estate, bypassing some probate requirements. Kentucky will also waive the final accounting of an estate if all the beneficiaries agree in writing. If someone dies without a will but his entire assets, after payment of estate expenses, are less than $15,000, the estate might also be exempt from much of the probate process.
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Filing the Will
Probate opens in Kentucky with the filing of the original will and a petition for probate in district court in the county where the deceased lived. Preprinted forms for the petition are available from the court clerk. The petition includes the names and addresses of all heirs or immediate kin and a brief statement regarding the estate’s assets and their approximate worth. The county clerk keeps the original will on file permanently.
Hearing on Will
After the petition and will have been filed, the court clerk will set a date for a hearing to officially open probate. If the will was not notarized at the time it was signed, a judge will hear testimony from the witnesses that the will is authentic and confirming that they signed it. The person named as executor to oversee the distribution of the deceased’s property and the payment of her debts is officially appointed and takes an oath of office.
After appointment, the executor has two months to file an inventory of the estate with the court. The inventory is a more detailed version of the statement in the petition for probate that included a summary of the assets and their estimated value. The executor may have to have certain property appraised during this time in order to set an accurate value. The inventory is a matter of public record.
Paying Debts of the Estate
The deceased’s creditors must be notified that his will is in probate. The holders of loans secured by collateral are notified directly and a notice must be published in a newspaper in the county where the deceased lived to alert any creditors that the executor doesn’t know about. Creditors have six months after notification to make a claim against the estate for the money owed to them. After six months, Kentucky bars them from collecting. The executor is responsible for paying all legitimate claims and any taxes due on behalf of the deceased or the estate.
After all debts and taxes are paid, the executor can distribute the estate’s remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the will. The executor then prepares a final accounting of the estate and submits it to the judge. The accounting is a detailed list of all payments and disbursements to beneficiaries made by the executor, including receipts and any other paperwork that supports the transactions. The judge will review the accounting, prepare a written report and give it to the court clerk, who will set the matter down for a final hearing and place a notice in the newspaper giving the date. If no objections are filed, the hearing is dispensed with and an order is issued, closing the estate. If objections are received, a final hearing is required so the judge can hear from the dissenter and either alter his final report or confirm that it stands. Either way, probate is then closed.