Louisville Probate Attorney Discusses the Probate Process
Probate is the legal process whereby the estate of a deceased person is settled. Each state has its own Probate Code, and more specifically, the district court in Kentucky where the person died handles the probate. Probate is necessary if the decedent died with a valid will or if he or she passed without a will, which is known as intestacy. In either case, if your loved one has recently passed, a Louisville probate attorney will explain it is important to understand the rights and obligations of the parties involved.
The probate court supervises the accounting of estate assets and liabilities and the distribution of the net proceeds to the named beneficiaries or to those entitled to the distribution under the laws of intestacy. The initial step is to file a petition with the appropriate court of jurisdiction. This petition asks the court to open up the probate and appoint a personal representative to settle the decedent’s estate. If there is a will, that person is called the executor and if it is an intestate succession, the individual is referred to as an administrator.
Proving a Will vs. a Self-Proving Will
The validity of the will must be established. A self-proving will is one signed by the decedent and two witnesses, has all signatures notarized and includes language that is required by Kentucky law. A will that does not meet the statutory requirements must be proven in court by the testimony of at least one witness.
Administering the Estate
The personal representative must take control of and manage the estate of the decedent. During this process, the representative owes the highest fiduciary duty to both the heirs and creditors of the estate. Typically, the personal representative has 6o days to submit a detailed inventory of the estate to the probate court.
Settling the Estate
The estate may not be settled sooner than 180 days from the date of the personal representative’s appointment. First debts, income tax and any death taxes are paid, and then the remaining assets are distributed to the heirs. A formal or informal settlement may be utilized depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.
Issues in Probate Administration
Small estates with few creditors and heirs may be relatively simple to settle, although the proper procedure must be followed carefully. However, several factors may serve to complicate and prolong the matter such as:
- Multiple wills: it may be necessary to prove which will is the legally valid will as it is not uncommon for the terms to be different in subsequent wills
- The terms of the will are not clear; for instance, references to bank accounts or property not in existence or referring to “my spouse” when multiple marriages occurred can be problematic
- Any disagreement among heirs: an interested party can contest the will or any part of the probate process
Contact a Louisville Probate Attorney for Legal Advice
The probate process can quickly become complex and confusing. For any questions regarding your situation, call Patricia Abell, a Louisville probate attorney, at 502.561.3455.