Dying Without a Will in Kentucky

What Are the Laws of Intestacy Succession in Kentucky?

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When a Kentucky resident dies without a last will and testament, the intestacy succession laws will dictate who inherits the deceased person's probate estate. Laws can be confusing so perhaps the best place to start is by defining a few of the terms you will see.

A last will and testament is a document that a person completes when they are living direction the division of their assets and belonging at the time of their death. If someone dies without a will the division of their property must be decided by the state in a process known as probate. Probate is a legal—court—proceeding that can be costly and takes several months to complete.

Kentucky's  Revised Statutes (KRS 61.874) will manage the handling of the estate.

Intestacy Laws

If the deceased owns property that has a value that is greater than their outstanding debts the court process is known as intestacy or intestate. Intestate can also happen if the will presented is thought to be invalid for some reason or if the will only cover a portion of all the assets the deceased individual owned.

In most cases, the property will flow to the spouse, then to children, and then on to other family members. However, this is not necessarily the law in every state. Courts may refer to family members as descendants. This is a line of connection spreading downward to children and grandchildren to the remotest degree. States will also vary on who they view of a descendant in the cases of adopted, foster, and step-children.

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

Deceased Person is Survived by Family

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, parents or siblings:

  • Survived by a Spouse and Descendants: In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit one-half of the deceased spouse's probate estate, and the deceased spouse's descendants will inherit the other one-half 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 of the deceased spouse's probate estate, and the deceased spouse's parents will inherit the other one-half of the probate estate in equal shares if both are living or the entire one-half 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 of the deceased spouse's probate estate, and the deceased spouse's siblings will inherit the other one-half of the probate estate, per stirpes.

Deceased Person is Not Survived by Family

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, parents or siblings:

  • Survived by Descendants of Deceased Brothers Or Sisters and No Spouse, Descendants or Parents: In this case, the descendants of the deceased person's deceased brothers and 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?

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. This may be the case if your relative's estate contained only non-probate property. Also, the debts your relative owed at the time of death may have exceeded 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.

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.