Probate Basics: What, Where, When, Who, and How?

What is Probate? Where does it take place? When does it happen? Who can start the Probate? How is Probate accomplished?


What: Probate is the legal process of transferring ownership of property from the decedent to his or her heirs either by accepting the validity of their last will and testament or by following the Kentucky laws of intestacy.  For a will to be valid, it must be “self-proven” or proven as valid in court by at least one of the witnesses.  A valid will can also be holographic: written entirely in the handwriting of the decedent, signed, and dated.

Where:   The probate process in Kentucky is handled by the District Court in the county where the person resided. If the decedent owned real estate interests in another state, an ancillary probate will likely need to be opened in that state as well in order to transfer the real estate.

When: A petition for probate can immediately be filed after a person’s death, however, the death certificate will be necessary to make financial transactions within the probate estate and to interact with most financial institutions and government entities.


Who: Any interested person can file a probate petition. If there is a valid will, the court will appoint the person listed as the Personal Representative.  If there is not a will, the court will appoint whomever it deems best suited and situated to perform the duties of the Personal Representative. 

How: If you choose not to retain an Attorney to assist you with the probate process, Kentucky has a guide to basic probate procedures and the necessary legal forms available in the court clerk’s office as well as online.  The clerk’s office will provide materials, however, they are unable to give legal advice.

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