Opening the Probate Estate
In Kentucky, a probate estate must be opened within 10 years of the decedent's death. To open the estate, the person planning to manage the estate files the will in the probate court, along with a petition that asks the court to begin probate and confirm the managing person's position as executor. If there is no will, the same petition is filed, but it informs the court there is no will and asks for the appointment of an "administrator" instead of an "executor." Petition forms are available from the Kentucky county courts or online. In some cases, the court may require the executor to post a surety bond. The amount of the bond is determined by the court.
Administering the Estate
Once the will is admitted to probate, the executor can begin administering the estate's financial affairs. Typically, administering an estate involves notifying the heirs and beneficiaries and publishing notice to creditors in a local newspaper of record. Creditors have six months to make claims. After determining the value of its assets and debts, the executor pays the estate's final bills and taxes. A Kentucky executor has 60 days to file an inventory of the estate's assets with the probate court from the date the probate estate opens. The inventory should list debts and each asset and its value on the date of the decedent's death. The probate court offers inventory forms, or the executor may use his own.
Settling the Estate
After the inventory is filed, the executor may begin to settle the estate by paying its bills and distributing its assets. Assets must be distributed according to the instructions in the will. Once all bills are paid and all assets are distributed, the executor must file a final settlement statement with the probate court. The court offers a form to use for the final settlement statement. The final settlement may not be filed for at least six months after the executor is appointed. If settling the estate takes more than two years, the court may require an "interim" settlement statement, describing the process the executor has made in settling the estate and the work left to be done.
An executor in Kentucky has a fiduciary duty to protect the value of an estate's assets and must keep the heirs and beneficiaries informed at each step of the process. If the executor fails to meet this duty and some assets are destroyed or devalued as a result, the probate court may hold the executor personally responsible for paying back the estate. An executor may be paid for his work, but payment may not equal more than 5 percent of the estate's value plus five percent of any income the executive collects on behalf of the estate.