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Probate and order of inheritance

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2021 | Probate & Estate Administration |

If you haven’t dealt with probate court before, the thought of it can seem overwhelming. However, probate will follow a predictable process to divide a deceased person’s property. In Kentucky, a specific order of inheritance guides what happens to an estate going through probate.

Sometimes, a decedent has left behind an ironclad will. In other cases, probate court is necessary to disburse the estate. Order of inheritance defines which relatives receive what after a loved one dies. More specifically, it outlines who inherits first.

Closer relatives come first

The closest relative a person can have is a spouse. Because spouses are each other’s next-of-kin, a decedent’s husband or wife comes first when disbursing an estate through probate. A spouse will receive half.

Aside from a spouse, a decedent’s closest relatives are children or other descendants, such as grandchildren. They will receive the other half of the estate.

No descendants

After a spouse has received half of the estate, other rules of succession kick in. If there are no children, the decedent’s parents will inherit the other half. If neither parent is living, the second half of the estate will go to the next closest living relatives as determined by the following order:

  • Siblings and descendants of siblings
  • Spouse
  • Grandparents
  • Aunts and uncles
  • Great-grandparents
  • Siblings of grandparents

Things don’t always stop there, though. If none of those people are living, the rest of the estate will go to the closest lineal ancestors or the descendants of the closest lineal ancestors. Rarely, this can result in surprises for distant relatives who never expected to inherit anything.

Few people are happy about the prospect of dealing with probate court, but it’s sometimes necessary. Attorneys with experience in probate may help people through the process.