Kentucky Heir Law Concerning Grandchildren

By Jeff Franco J.D./M.A./M.B.A.

The laws governing Kentucky wills allow you to name any person or organization as an heir to your estate, including grandchildren. However, if you fail to draft a will, Kentucky will apply its intestate succession laws to determine which of your family members will receive your property. In this case, the state will attempt to distribute your entire estate to other heirs before your grandchildren can receive anything.

Naming Grandchildren as Heirs

If your intention is to leave all or part of your estate to your grandchildren, the most effective way to accomplish this is by drafting a will that is legally enforceable in Kentucky. Under Kentucky law, you must be of sound mind at the time you draft the will – meaning you don’t suffer from mental incapacity, which prevents you from fully understanding the implications of naming grandchildren as heirs. Your will must always be written, but you have two options for satisfying this requirement. If you handwrite your will and it includes your signature and the date, this is sufficient for the state to enforce it at your death. However, if you type the will on a computer, it must include the signatures of two witnesses who are present at the time you sign it. By adhering to these requirements, you will have peace of mind knowing your grandchildren will receive everything you leave to them. An online document preparation service can help ensure your will meets all of Kentucky's requirements.

Grandchildren as Representatives

There are other ways your grandchildren may receive your estate property if you don’t name them as heirs in your will. If you designate each of your children as heirs in your will, but one of them predeceases you and you never update your will, Kentucky allows your deceased child's children to take their parent’s share of your estate. For example, if you name your son and daughter – who each have two children -- as the sole heirs to your estate, but your son predeceases you, your daughter will receive one-half of your estate and your son’s two children receive the other half per stirpes. This means they represent their father for purposes of your will. However, your daughter’s children won't receive anything from your estate since your daughter is alive when your estate property is distributed.

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No Will Exists

In the event you fail to draft a legal will, Kentucky probate courts will distribute the property in your estate pursuant to the state’s intestate succession laws. These laws determine which of your family members are eligible to receive your property and in which order. Kentucky will distribute half of your assets to your surviving spouse, if any, and half of your assets to your children. If your children predecease you, as previously discussed, your grandchildren are next in line for distribution.

Implications of Surviving Spouse

One thing to consider when drafting your will is that if you leave your entire estate to your grandchildren and disinherit your spouse, Kentucky allows your spouse to renounce or challenge the will in probate court to obtain the minimum distribution Kentucky permits surviving spouses to collect, commonly referred to as a surviving spouse's "elective share." As a result, there can be lengthy delays in the distribution of your estate to your grandchildren.

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