Many people in Kentucky and elsewhere believe that probate only occurs if a person doesn’t have a will. However, this is not true; in reality, the process occurs based on a few different situations. This is when probate is necessary and what to expect.
Understanding the probate process
The executor of the estate files a petition and a copy of the death certificate with the court in the county where the decedent lived to initiate probate. They must also send a notice by mail to all beneficiaries and creditors. The executor must then perform an inventory of the person’s assets and have them appraised.
The executor is responsible for paying bills, taxes and debts on the estate. Once the probate process is complete, they can then begin to distribute the assets and property to the person’s beneficiaries.
Situations requiring probate
If a person dies without a will, their estate must go through probate. This is known as dying intestate, and the person’s property must be distributed through the state’s inheritance laws. Any financial accounts the individual held that either lacked a beneficiary or had one named who died before they did will also be subject to probate.
Without a will, probate has to occur to determine who should be considered the decedent’s heirs. In most cases, the person’s surviving spouse and children are the heirs and will inherit property and assets from the estate. If the person was unmarried and had no children, their next closest family members would be considered heirs.
Unless the person’s estate is very small, having a will does not exempt the probate process. Larger estates worth more money are subject to probate unless assets were placed into a trust to keep them separate from the estate.
Depending on the size of the estate, probate can take around 18 months to three years.