Deciding to make a last will and testament is an important step for all adults. A Kentucky will give you control over how you distribute your assets after you die. These FAQs help you understand how to create a valid will in the state of Kentucky.
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What If I Die Without a Will in Kentucky?
When a person dies with a will, the court follows the instructions in the will to determine who receives the personal property and real estate. If the decedent has no will, they die “intestate.” In that situation, the surviving spouse and/or children inherit the assets.
If there is no spouse or children, Kentucky law distributes the assets among the closest next of kin, such as parents, siblings, or grandparents. If there is no next of kin, then the state takes the assets. Creating your own will ensures that your property goes to your loved ones, not the state.
What Does a Will Do?
A will lets you control who manages your estate, inherits your property, and cares for your young children. In your will, you can do such things as:
- Name a personal representative or executor who locates your will and assets, files the will with the Kentucky probate court, and follows your wishes
- Identify and gives away personal property and real estate
- Name beneficiaries to inherit your assets
- Make charitable gifts to the charities of your choice
- Name guardians for minor children, if necessary
- Name caregivers for pets and set aside funds for their care
A will gives you peace of mind that your family is protected. By making your wishes known, a will speeds up the probate process saving your family members time and money in court.
What Doesn’t a Will Do?
Your will distributes many of your assets, but some assets, called non-probate assets, do not pass through a will. These transfer according to the terms of their own legal documents. For example, a bank account may have a transfer-on-death beneficiary designation. The person you name as the beneficiary receives the proceeds after your death. These non-probate assets include:
- Funds in payable-on-death or transfer-on-death bank accounts or investment accounts
- Life insurance and annuity payments (to beneficiaries other than to the estate itself)
- Retirement accounts, pensions, 401(k)s, IRAs, and Keoghs
- Property owned as joint tenants with right of survivorship
- Property in revocable living trusts or irrevocable trusts
Because these accounts and assets transfer outside of your will, you should check all beneficiary designations on them. If the account or assets does not have a beneficiary or the beneficiary dies before you, the proceeds go into your probate estate. That is why you should also name backup beneficiaries on non-probate assets.
Who Can Make a Will in Kentucky?
There are certain requirements a testator, the person making a will, must meet in Kentucky to make a will:
- Age: They must be age 18 or older. The exception is if the testator is under the age of 18 but has a child. In that case, they may make a will to name a guardian for their child.
- Sound Mind: The testator must have sound mental capacity, meaning they are mentally competent.
A testator must have a sound mind at the time they make and sign the will. Kentucky residents with concerns about their mental capacity should consult an estate planning attorney for legal advice and assistance.
Does Kentucky Have a Statutory Will?
No. Kentucky does not have a statutory will or specific language to include in a will for it to be valid. You can either create your own will or hire an estate planning attorney. Many choose to make their will with online resources such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services that help draft a will conforming to Kentucky law.
What Types of Wills Does Kentucky Accept?
The standard type of will is typed or printed and then signed by the testator. It is essential to understand the other types of wills as well and if they are acceptable in Kentucky.
- Handwritten Will: A holographic will is a will in the testator’s handwriting, signed but not witnessed. A handwritten will is only acceptable in Kentucky if the testator writes their entire will in their handwriting, sign, and date their will in front of two witnesses. A handwritten will without witnesses is not valid.
- Oral Will: An oral or spoken will, sometimes called a nuncupative will, is not valid in Kentucky.
- Electronic Will: A digital or electronic will means a will signed, witnessed, or notarized through electronic means. At this time, Kentucky does not accept electronic wills.
The best method for making a will is typewritten or printed with witnesses present when signing. This type of will avoids mistakes, problems reading handwriting, or allegations of fraud or undue influence.
Can I Make My Own Will in Kentucky?
Yes. You can make your own will in Kentucky. You do not have to use an attorney to draft your will. If you know who you want to handle your estate, what assets you have, and who you wish to receive those assets, you are ready to make a will. The advantage of using an online will drafting service, such as FindLaw Legal Forms and Services, is that it allows you to customize and update your will whenever you want. You can revoke your original will and create a new one without making an amendment or codicil that might get lost.
Can I Disinherit My Spouse in Kentucky?
You are not required to leave anything to your spouse in your will. However, if you do not, the Kentucky right of election (also called dower and curtesy law) applies. This election gives your spouse the option to choose to take one-third of the real estate and one-half of the rest of the estate.
Can I Disinherit My Children in Kentucky?
You are not required to leave anything to your children. However, if a child is born or adopted after you create your will and is left out, the court may consider them a pretermitted child. A pretermitted child may receive a share in your estate equal to what they would get if you died without a will. The exception is if the omission is clearly intentional, there was another child in existence when the testator created their will or provided for the pretermitted child outside of the will with other transfers.
If you want to disinherit a child, the best way is to specifically state in your will that you are doing so.
What Estate Planning Documents Should I Have in Kentucky?
A will is just one piece of a complete state plan. Your Kentucky estate plan should also include the following:
- Power of Attorney. A power of attorney is a document that allows you to name someone who can make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.
- Health Care Directive. A health care directive is a document that allows you to select a health care surrogate who can access your medical records and make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot. It also allows you to specify your wishes about life-prolonging treatment, artificial feeding or hydration, and organ donation.
Fortunately, making a valid will and creating other Kentucky estate planning documents is easy with online estate planning templates.