What happens when you don’t have a will, and you leave behind a spouse and adult children?

by Mandy Hicks

By Nathan Vinson
English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP

documents photoMany people have a misconception about Kentucky law when it comes to how your property is distributed after your death. People assume (as would be logical) that given that a husband and wife live together in the marital home, upon the death of the husband, for instance, the wife automatically becomes the owner of the home and everything in it. Well, logical assumption aside, this is not the case.

Under Kentucky law, given the simple and common scenario that a husband dies leaving behind a wife and adult children (assuming the adult children do not live in the marital home), the wife is entitled to half of the husband’s estate, while the children, collectively, are entitled to the other half of the husband’s estate. Therefore, if the home was only titled in the husband’s name, and the husband died without a will, under the letter of the law, his children would receive a half interest in the home. His wife could be kicked out of her home, the home could then be sold, and the wife and children would split the net proceeds, if any.

Everyone needs an estate plan

You may ask who would put themselves in such a situation, or why would the children be so heartless as to not waive their rights to the house and let the wife continue to live in her home. Well, sometimes families do not get along, and sometimes daddy’s second wife or mommy’s second husband is not the most popular person with the children. We have seen it in practice, and we have handled estates with the scenario we have described here.

There are several aspects of your estate plan that need to be considered, but the passing of your home, especially if you wish for your spouse or partner to continue living in the home or at least have the right to do so after you die, is at the top of the list. As basic as it may sound, one size does not fit all. Every homeowner should review his or her deed to see how it is titled and should seek the advice of an attorney if he or she is not sure what would happen to the home upon his or her death.

Even if you do not believe you have many assets, we always recommend sitting down with a qualified estate attorney to discuss your estate plans. If you would like to speak with us about your estate, we would be happy to meet with you. You can reach me, Nathan Vinson, at (270) 781-6500 or