Chapter 394 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) deals exclusively with laws regarding wills. According to Kentucky laws any adult (18 or older) of sound mind has a legal right to dispose of property that would under law pass to heirs at their death, via a last will and testament. Kentucky law also stipulates that the testator (the will maker) may file the will in a sealed envelope with the county clerk for safekeeping.
Kentucky's laws require that the will of a deceased resident be brought before the district court of the county of residence to be validated and start the probate process, settling the estate. Once the will is validated and recorded in the county clerk's office and an executor or administrator of the estate appointed, the original copy is filed away in the clerk's office. Debtors have six months to make claims against the estate, after which time property of the deceased changes ownership and the estate is considered settled. Persons wishing to contest the validity of a will have two years from the time of the district court probate to file a claim.
The validity of a will in Kentucky is determined by either one of two processes, unless the document is a "self-proved will." A holographic, or handwritten will, is valid if the complete document is composed in the testator's handwriting. Someone familiar with the testator's handwriting may then be called to testify as to the authenticity of the handwriting. Typed or printed wills must be signed by the testator, as well as two witnesses. All three signatures must be affixed to the document on the same occasion. In other words, the witnesses witness each other's signatures along with the testator's. Testimony of either one of the two witnesses can prove its validity.
To create a self-proved will, the testator must use the exact language as written in KRS 394.225, sign and date the document in the presence of two witnesses and a notary public. The notary public witnesses all three signatures and signs and stamps the document. Upon the death of the testator, this type of will does not require testimony from a signatory to be authenticated in court.
A will can be legally revoked only by the testator creating a newer version or the testator can destroy the will or have someone destroy it in their presence. Otherwise, the will is a legal binding document. KRS 394.090 explicitly states that marriage does not affect a prior will's legality. On the other hand KRS 394.092 makes clear that divorce does affect the provisions of the will as to how the former spouse is treated in the transfer of property. Kentucky law specifies that after divorce, provisions in the will are executed as though the former spouse died first. In other words, the former spouse has no legal claims unless explicitly stated to the contrary within the will.
Vicki A Benge began writing professionally in 1984 as a newspaper reporter. A small-business owner since 1999, Benge has worked as a licensed insurance agent and has more than 20 years experience in income tax preparation for businesses and individuals. Her business and finance articles can be found on the websites of "The Arizona Republic," "Houston Chronicle," The Motley Fool, "San Francisco Chronicle," and Zacks, among others.