A Louisville Probate Attorney Explains How to Probate an Estate
Carrying out the desires of your deceased loved one (decedent) is an immense responsibility; you have to assemble, account for, and distribute the assets and property (estate) of someone else. So, what do you do? A Louisville probate attorney can help you understand what needs to be done when this occurs.
What Is Probate?
Probate is a court-supervised process of gathering a decedent’s estate and distributing it to creditors and beneficiaries (those who are to inherit).
If the person died without a will (intestate), then you will be distributing the property in accordance with Kentucky’s intestate laws which say that the closest living relatives inherit.
If the decedent died with a will (testate), then you will distribute the property as the will instructs.
How Does The Process Work?
There are essentially four steps in the Kentucky probate process:
1. Filing a Petition
A petition must be filed in the decedent’s county of residence that states:
- Names of the surviving spouse, all known heirs at law, and their addresses;
- Date of death;
- Generally indicate what the estate consists of and the probable values of real and personal property; and,
- Statement of indebtedness owed to the petitioner, if any.
The petition must be:
- Duplicate (two copies)
- Verified (under oath, e.g. notarized)
- Submitted with a filing fee
- Submitted with the decedent’s will, if any.
If the person died intestate (without a will), then a notice of probate must be given to all of his or her heirs at law. The court will hold a hearing regarding the appointment of the estate’s personal representative.
After filing, there will be a probate hearing before the district court judge to officially make you the personal representative (executor or administrator) of the estate.
You must collect and itemize all assets and monetary accounts. You then file two copies of the inventory list within two months from your appointment as the personal representative. By filing the inventory, the decedent’s assets and values of the estate becomes public record.
The estate is disbursed to:
- Creditors. The decedent’s debts must be paid. If you have retained a Louisville probate attorney, he or she will advise to retain records of which creditors have been paid, how much, and for what debt.
- Taxes. Both federal and state income, death and inheritance taxes must be paid.
- Inheritors. The remaining estate is distributed to the named beneficiaries of a will or to the decedent’s heirs.
4. Closing the estate
Closing the estate occurs as follows:
- File a “final settlement.” This is your detailed accounting to the court of all disbursements relating to the estate. You must have supporting documentation like vouchers and receipts.
- Written report. The judge reviews the accounting and makes a report. The judge may also hear evidence, ask you questions, and summon witnesses in preparation of the report.
- Notices. The clerk will publish notices of the filing of the final settlement, which will contain a hearing date.
- Exceptions. Any exceptions may be filed prior to the hearing.
- Record. If no exceptions were filed prior to the hearing, the judge’s report is approved and recorded.
- Hearing. If exceptions are filed, then the judge may hold a hearing and decide whether to reject, alter, or confirm the report.
Under certain circumstances, an “informal settlement” may be filed. It should be notarized (under oath) and state:
- The estate is solvent;
- All legal claims and debts are paid (if not paid, how the claims and debts have been provided for);
- All taxes are paid with a duplicate or photocopy of the tax release, if available;
- All courts costs are paid;
- Beneficiaries received their share of the estate; and
- Name of attorney(s), if any, representing you and the amount of the attorney’s fee.
After filing, the judge may immediately enter an order closing the estate.
As an experienced and knowledgeable Louisville probate attorney, I can assist you during the entire probate process, including:
- Negotiating with creditors for a reduction of the decedent’s death;
- Notifying appropriate parties of the probate;
- Representing the estate’s interest in court.
Contact me at the Patricia A. Abell Law Office at (502) 561-3455 for your probate needs. You can also complete the form on this website.