If you die without a valid will while residing in the State of Kentucky, you are said to have died "intestate."  In order to determine who will receive your property if you die intestate, the State of Kentucky has established a number of laws (known as "intestacy laws" or "laws of intestate succession.") The primary statutes comprising these intestacy laws, or laws of intestate succession, are set forth below. For a more complete list, see Kentucky Intestacy Laws | Intestate Succession statutes.



Descent of real estate

When a person having right or title to any real estate of inheritance dies intestate as to such estate, it shall descend in common to his kindred, male and female, in the following order, except as otherwise provided in this chapter:

(1) To his children and their descendants; if there are none, then

(2) To his father and mother, if both are living, one (1) moiety each; but if the father is dead, the mother, if living, shall take the whole estate; if the mother is dead, the whole estate shall pass to the father; if there is no father or mother, then

(3) To his brothers and sisters and their descendants; if there are none, then

(4) To the husband or wife of the intestate; if there are none surviving, then

(5) One (1) moiety of the estate shall pass to the paternal and the other to the maternal kindred, in the following order:

          (a) The grandfather and grandmother equally, if both are living; but if one is dead, the entire moiety shall go to the survivor; if there is no grandfather or grandmother, then

          (b) To the uncles and aunts and their descendants; if there are none, then

          (c) To the great-grandfathers and great-grandmothers, in the same manner prescribed for grandfather and grandmother by subsection (a); if there are none, then

          (d) To the brothers and sisters of the grandfathers and grandmothers and their descendants; and so on in other cases without end, passing to the nearest lineal ancestors and their descendants.

(6) If there is no such kindred to one of the parents as is described in subsection (5), the whole to go to the kindred of the other. If there is neither paternal nor maternal kindred, the whole shall go to the kindred of the husband or wife, as if he or she had survived the intestate and died entitled to the estate.

K.R.S., 391.010


Descent of real estate acquired from parent

(1) When a person dies intestate and without issue, owning real estate of inheritance which is the gift of either of his parents, the parent who made the gift, if living, shall inherit the whole of such estate.

(2) If a person under the age of eighteen (18) dies without issue, having the title to real estate derived by gift, devise or descent from one of his parents, the whole shall descend to that parent and that parent's kindred, and if there is none, then in like manner to the other parent and his kindred. The kindred of one parent shall not be so excluded by the kindred of the other parent, if the latter is more remote than the grandfather, grandmother, uncles and aunts of the intestate and their descendants.

K.R.S., 391.020


Descent of personal property -- Exemption for surviving spouse and children -- Withdrawal of money from bank by surviving spouse

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, where any person dies intestate as to his or her personal estate, or any part thereof, the surplus, after payment of funeral expenses, charges of administration, and debts, shall pass and be distributed among the same persons, and in the proportions, to whom and in which real estate is directed to descend, except as follows:

          (a) The personal estate of an infant shall be distributed as if he or she had died after full age;

          (b) An alien may be distributee as though he or she were a citizen; and

          (c) Personal property or money on hand or in a bank or other depository to the amount of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) shall be exempt from distribution and sale and shall be set apart by the District Court having jurisdiction over the estate on application to the surviving spouse, or, if there is no surviving spouse, to the surviving children.

(2) The surviving spouse may, at any time before the property or money is set apart by the court, procure on petition from the Judge of the District Court having jurisdiction over administration of the estate, an order authorizing the surviving spouse to withdraw from any bank or other depository not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000) belonging to the estate of the deceased. Upon presentation of the order, the bank or depository shall permit the surviving spouse to withdraw the sum and shall lodge the order, endorsing thereon the amount withdrawn, with the circuit clerk who shall retain it in his or her files to be considered in connection with further proceedings in the estate and the withdrawal shall be treated as a charge against the property of the estate exempt from distribution.

(3) In the application for the setting apart of property or money under subsection (1) of this section, the surviving spouse or, if there is no surviving spouse, the surviving children may make their selection out of the personal property of the estate to the extent that the value of the property selected does not exceed the amount of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000).

(4) The exemption provided in this section applies where the husband or wife dies testate.

K.R.S., 391.030


Other intestacy statutes

There are additional statutes pertaining to the distribution of intestate property in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. To view those statutes, please click here.


[Reference - Kentucky's Intestacy laws]