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Can your spouse disinherit you in Kentucky?

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2024 | Probate

If someone makes a will, they typically can determine how much, if anything, to leave adult children (assuming they’re independent or at least have the ability to be). They generally have no legal responsibility to leave anything to parents, siblings or other adult relatives. 

That’s one of many advantages of having a will. If a person dies without one (referred to as “dying intestate”), their assets will be distributed to family members based on their familial relationship according to state law – regardless of what their actual relationship to the deceased was. 

If a person is still legally married to someone, they can’t actually “disinherit” them unless that’s stipulated in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. So what if you learn after your spouse dies that they left you nothing (or perhaps just a small percentage of their estate)? 

Maybe it was something you informally agreed to many years ago, outside of a prenup or postnup, but things are financially very different for you now. Maybe you and your spouse were separated at the time they put their will in place, and they were very angry. If you’re not a co-owner of large assets like the family home or bank accounts, you could be left with virtually nothing.

What can you do?

You can “renounce” your spouse’s will. In Kentucky, that means you can elect to take the share of the estate Kentucky law allows surviving spouses. Depending on the type of asset, that’s usually a third to a half.

If you’re considering renouncing your late spouse’s will, it’s critical to understand the process and to do it correctly. The sooner you act, the better. You’ll need to notify the executor of the estate (if it’s someone other than you). You’ll also want to let other close family members know if it will affect their share of the estate.  The best way to start is getting experienced probate guidance.