In Kentucky, anyone 18 years or older determined to be of sound mind can write a legal will. Most of the requirements and rules for a legal will are spelled out in Chapter 394 of the revised Kentucky statutes.
Doing It Yourself
You can hire a lawyer to draft a will for you, or you can write a holographic will. A holographic will is one written in your own handwriting, dated and signed by you. Such a will is legal in Kentucky, and doesn't require witnesses. After your death, the probate court will require someone who knows your handwriting to testify that the writing is yours.
You also can type out your will or part of your will, but that option requires two witnesses, the same as a will drafted by a lawyer. Neither witness can be one of your heirs, or the spouse of an heir. If the probate court invalidates the witnesses' signatures, it'll be as if you died intestate, with no will at all.
Revising the Will
It's usually wise to review the will every year or so and decide if it needs updating. For instance, Kentucky law says if you write a will and then get married, that doesn't change your will. If you want your spouse to inherit, you need to draft a new document.
Without a Will
If you die intestate — without a will — the state will pass property to your heirs according to Kentucky law;
- Your spouse, at time of writing, gets $15,000 of your estate and half of everything above that figure.
- If you have children, the remaining assets go to your kids. If they've predeceased you, your grandchildren inherit instead.
- If you're childless, your parents inherit the second half of your estate.
The probate court will appoint the executor for your estate and a guardian, if necessary, for your dependents. The executor will divide up the value of your estate's assets and distribute them to the heirs as seems best. Your specific wishes about who should inherit which assets aren't binding without a will.
Kentucky says you're of sound mind if you know that you're writing a will; understand roughly what assets you own; and know the names of family members who would normally be expected to inherit something.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.