Kentucky Laws on Debt for Someone Who Passed Away

Generally, to write a will using valid terminology that abides by the statutes of the commonwealth of Kentucky, a provision declaring that debts be paid is made in the wording. However, whether or not specifications are made to this effect, or should there be no will in existence, debts owed by the decedent must be paid before assets are transferred to heirs of the estate under Kentucky law.

Estate Debt

Chapter 395 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) deals with the settlement of an estate of a resident who has passed away. Kentucky law calls the deceased individual the "decedent" in the statutes and provides clear guidelines on how an estate should be settled from beginning to end. Concerning debt of the decedent, the executor or administrator, both often referred to as the personal representative of the estate, hold responsibility for settling debts of the decedent, collecting any forthcoming income and subsequently distributing assets to heirs.

Personal Representative

An executor of an estate, according to Kentucky law, is a person designated in a will to oversee an estate settlement. An administrator is a person who serves in the same capacity but is appointed by the court when a Kentucky resident dies without a will. As for debts owed to the decedent by a personal representative, according to KRS 395.100, if the person appointed as an executor owes the estate a debt, the appointment does not nullify the debt, unless the deceased has forgiven the debt in the will.

Time Limits

Under Kentucky law as written in KRS 396.011, if an estate of a deceased resident is opened for probate, creditors making claims against the estate of a decedent must do so within six months from the time a personal representative is appointed. However, if no administrator is appointed, claims for debts owed must be made within two years. As written in KRS 396.045, if a claim to collect a debt is filed properly within the six-month window following the death of a Kentucky resident, no statute of limitation rules apply.


During the probate process of settling an estate in Kentucky, the law gives preference to what the statutes term "preferred creditors." In order of preference, these include the expenses associated with settling the estate, the expenses due to the provider of funeral services, debts and tax bills due under government regulations, and any other creditors' claims. As outlined in KRS 395.455, if a family member pays one of the preferred claims, the relative can petition the court to be classified as a preferred creditor and be reimbursed for the amount of the preferred claim.

Filing Claims

To file a claim against an estate, the creditor must submit a written document either to the representative of the estate of the decedent or to the probate court clerk. If the claim is presented to the clerk, a copy must still be given to the estate's representative. According to KRS 396.135, a debtor cannot claim property of the deceased to settle a debt unless the property carries a proper lien declaring the right. A mortgage lien on a home would be an example of a proper lien, as would be a personal auto loan with a lien on the vehicle's title.