One of the most frequent things I hear from potential clients is “I don’t have much, so I don’t need a will.” If you do not have substantial assets, then you may be wondering if this is true. Of course, the answer is unique to you and your family situation. In some cases, where someone qualifies as a small estate and is survived by a spouse or children, then a will is only necessary if you want to change where your assets go under the default law. But in cases where a full probate is required, unintended consequences may arise where Kentucky statutes dictate how your assets are divided and distributed, not your own wishes via a will.
One of the most common misconceptions about Kentucky law is how your property is distributed after your death. Many people assume that your surviving spouse will inherit everything. But while a logical assumption, it is simply not the case in Kentucky – or many states actually. Your surviving spouse is only entitled to half of your assets; the other half go to your heirs-at-law according to Kentucky’s intestate statutes. To determine your heirs-at-law, we follow your family tree – first your children, then grandchildren, then up to your parents, then siblings, and so on. In situations where your spouse is your children’s’ other parent, then not creating a will may not result in a terrible situation for them. Your surviving spouse and children will still split your estate legally, but they’re likely to do so amicably and in a way that won’t burden their surviving parent.