Dying Without a Will in Kentucky

What Are the Laws of Intestacy Succession in Kentucky?

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NOTE: State laws change frequently and the following information may not reflect recent changes in the laws. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney since the information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.

When a Kentucky resident dies without a Last Will and Testament, the intestacy succession laws found in the Kentucky Revised Statutes will dictate who inherits the deceased person's probate estate.

Below is a summary of the Kentucky intestacy laws in various situations.

Deceased Person is Survived by a Spouse and/or Descendants and/or Parents and/or Siblings

Here is what will happen under the Kentucky intestacy laws if the deceased person is survived by a spouse, descendants (including children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.), parents and/or siblings:

  • Survived by a spouse and descendants - In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit one-half (1/2) of the deceased spouse's probate estate and the deceased spouse's descendants will inherit the other one-half (1/2) of the probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Survived by descendants and no spouse - In this case, the deceased person's descendants will inherit the entire probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and parents but no descendants - In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit one-half (1/2) of the deceased spouse's probate estate and the deceased spouse's parents will inherit the other one-half (1/2) of the probate estate in equal shares if both are living or the entire one-half (1/2) share if only one parent is living.
  • Survived by a spouse and siblings but no descendants or parents - In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit one-half (1/2) of the deceased spouse's probate estate and the deceased spouse's siblings will inherit the other one-half (1/2) of the probate estate, per stirpes.

Deceased Person is Not Survived by a Spouse, Descendants, Parents or Siblings

Here is what will happen under the Kentucky intestacy laws if the deceased person is not survived by a spouse, descendants (including children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.), parents or siblings:

  • Survived by descendants of deceased brothers and/or sisters and no spouse, descendants or parents - In this case the descendants of the deceased person's deceased brothers and/or sisters (including nieces and nephews or the children of a deceased niece or nephew) will inherit the entire of the probate estate, per stirpes.
  • Not survived by any family members - In the unlikely circumstance that the deceased person is not survived by any family members as described above, then the entire probate estate will escheat to the State of Kentucky.

What Will You Inherit From a Kentucky Intestate Estate?

What will you inherit if your relative dies without leaving a will and the relative was a resident of Kentucky or owned real estate located in Kentucky? Even if you determine based on the information provided above that you are entitled to an intestate share of your relative's estate, you may not inherit anything. Why? Because your relative may have left only non-probate property or the debts your relative owed at the time of death may exceed the value of the probate estate which will make the estate insolvent.

If you're not sure about your legal rights as an intestate heir in Kentucky, then consult with a Kentucky probate attorney to be sure.