Kentucky Inheritance Laws You Should Know

By Joshua Berkley
Attorney

Are you aware of the Kentucky inheritance laws that could affect your estate? Understanding these laws is key to planning for the future and protecting your loved ones. Here’s what you need to know.

What Happens to Your Assets If You Die Without a Will in Kentucky?

If you die without a will in Kentucky, the state’s intestate succession laws determine who inherits your assets. These laws aim to distribute your property in a way that reflects how most people would like their assets divided.

If you have a spouse and descendants (children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren, etc.), your spouse inherits half of your assets, and your descendants share the other half. Many people believe if they die, their spouse automatically gets everything – this is often not the case.  In Kentucky, if you have no will, your spouse only gets all your property if you die and leave no descendants, parents, siblings, or descendants of siblings. If you have descendants but no spouse, your descendants inherit everything, divided equally among them.

If you have no spouse or descendants, the state looks further into your family tree. Your parents are next in line to inherit. If your parents have passed away, your siblings (or their descendants if they are not alive) will inherit your assets. If you have no immediate family members, your assets might go to more distant relatives like aunts, uncles, or cousins. If the state finds no relatives eligible to inherit, your assets eventually go to the state of Kentucky.

These intestate succession rules only apply to assets that would have passed through your will, such as property in your name that you own individually. It does not include jointly owned assets, life insurance proceeds, retirement accounts, or any assets with a designated beneficiary, such as assets in a trust. These assets pass directly to the co-owner or named beneficiary.  Only if these assets had no beneficiary designated or that beneficiary had predeceased the account owner would those funds pass through the estate and be subject to the terms of the will.

How You Can Protect Your Assets with an Estate Plan

Creating an estate plan is the best way to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you die. Without a plan, state laws decide who gets your assets, which might not align with your preferences or values. An effective estate plan includes various tools that allow you to control who receives your assets and how. Here are some key estate planning instruments you can use:

  • Wills: A will is a legal document in which you specify who should inherit your assets after you die. It’s a basic but powerful tool to make your wishes clear and legally enforceable.
  • Trusts: A trust is a legal arrangement that allows you to set aside assets for specific purposes or beneficiaries. Trusts are useful for minimizing estate taxes, protecting assets from creditors, and providing for beneficiaries who are unable to manage the assets themselves. They also avoid the probate process.
  • Beneficiary Designations: Many financial accounts and insurance policies let you name beneficiaries who will receive the assets directly upon your death. It’s important to document these designations and update them as necessary to reflect your current wishes.
  • Durable Powers of Attorney: A durable power of attorney is a document that lets you appoint someone to manage your financial affairs if you become incapacitated. It ensures that someone you trust can handle your finances without court intervention.

How a Kentucky Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help

Here are some ways an estate planning lawyer can help you protect your assets with a solid estate plan:

  • Drafting a will that reflects your wishes
  • Creating various types of trusts to manage your assets
  • Advising you on beneficiary designations 
  • Establishing joint ownership agreements for property
  • Developing asset gifting strategies to reduce estate taxes
  • Preparing a durable power of attorney for financial matters
  • Reviewing and updating existing estate planning documents
  • Providing guidance on charitable contributions and trusts
  • Navigating complex family situations like blended families
  • Coordinating with other professionals, like accountants or financial advisors

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney in Shelbyville, Kentucky, Now

Interested in learning more about how you can effectively plan your estate under Kentucky inheritance laws? Don’t wait to take this important step in securing your future. Contact Berkley Oliver today to learn how we can help.

About the Author
Josh Berkley is an attorney and owner at Berkley Oliver PLLC who helps individuals implement plans to protect their assets and their loved ones. Josh focuses his practice in the areas of Estate Planning, Probate, and Elder Law.  From assisting young parents in making a plan to provide for their children, to helping senior clients qualify for Medicaid, Josh works with clients to create estate plans and life plans tailored to each person’s specific goals. He also helps clients with a wide variety of important legal documents such Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Healthcare Surrogate Designations, and Living Wills. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Josh here.