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Probate Real Estate in Kentucky

Selling a House in Probate Louisville, Kentucky

So what does it take for a homeowner dealing with the probate process to sell? This article is an informative resource for anyone dealing with the probate process. It will explain what is probate and how you can navigate the often tricky process to sell a property in probate while still making a profit for the estate and your family.


If you are reading this, it is likely you have lost a loved one or someone close to you and are trying to understand what will happen to their estate and how it will affect you. First I offer condolences to you and your family for your loss. Dealing with the loss of a loved one and then going through the process of settling their estate can be emotionally, physically and sometimes financially draining.

My hope is to make this easier for you by providing Probate information that will enable you to make the best decisions for you and your family. In this writing we will cover Probate at a high level with emphasis on what to do with the Real Property (real estate) associated with the estate.

Being appointed Executor or Executrix is not something most people are familiar with. We have worked with many families over the past several years and found it is a learning process from start to finish. When given the right information and encouragement early in the probate process, they were able to make better decisions with greater confidence.

To that end we hope you find this helpful and that it enables you to make the best decisions for you and your family.

What is a Probate?

Probate is a legal process that occurs after someone passes away to settle their estate. The purpose of the probate process in Kentucky, as in other states, is to:

  1. Authenticate the Will: If the deceased person left a will, the probate court verifies its authenticity.
  2. Appoint an Executor or Administrator: The court appoints an executor if there is a will, or an administrator if there is no will (intestate). These individuals are responsible for managing and distributing the estate.
  3. Inventory and Appraise Assets: The executor or administrator compiles an inventory of the deceased person’s assets and has them appraised to determine their value.
  4. Pay Debts and Taxes: The estate is used to pay off any outstanding debts, including funeral expenses and taxes. Creditors are notified, and their claims are addressed.
  5. Distribute Remaining Assets: After debts and taxes are settled, the remaining assets are distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or state laws if there is no will.
  6. Transfer Property Title: The probate process facilitates the legal transfer of property titles from the deceased person to the rightful heirs or beneficiaries.
  7. Resolve Disputes: If there are disputes among heirs or creditors, the probate court can help resolve these issues.

In Kentucky, the probate process is governed by state laws, and the specific procedures may vary depending on the circumstances of the estate. While some estates may qualify for simplified procedures, others may involve more complex proceedings. Probate ensures that the deceased person’s assets are distributed in an orderly and legal manner, providing a framework for resolving any issues that may arise during the process.

Can a House Be Sold While in Probate?

Yes, it can! Depending on how the estate was left when the person passes, a property in probate can be sold by three entities: the executor of the estate or a person named in the will to manage the distribution of the estate; the administrator of the estate, who is appointed by the Court to manage the estate for an intestate situation when there are Heirs/beneficiaries; and the Court when there is an intestate situation but there are no Heirs seeking administration. Once the executor of the estate, the administrator, or the Court decides who inherits the property, the Heir(s) or beneficiaries can begin the process of petitioning to sell the probate property.

What Does it Take to Sell a House in Louisville, Kentucky While in Probate?

An executor’s main responsibility is to preserve the estate’s assets for distribution to any Heirs or beneficiaries, as outlined in the will. Sometimes a situation might occur where the estate owes a large amount of debt to creditors or the property has been neglected and back taxes are owed to the government. In this situation, the executor of the estate, the administrator, or the Court is allowed to sell the property to settle all debts, even if there are Heirs.

A good example of this is an elderly woman who passes away with an executor for her estate to manage her affairs. She has two Heirs. By the time she dies, she has racked up both hospital and credit card debt to the amount of $90,000. She leaves a home worth $150,000 but no cash assets and owes $80,000 to the hospital and $10,000 in credit card debt. Despite having passed, the estate still must find a way to pay off these debts. If the Heirs are unable to cover the debt themselves, the executor will need to sell the property to pay off the $90,000 of debt. Once the house is sold, the remaining $60,000 would be divided between the two Heirs.

A property in probate may also be sold if the person died with no will and there are no immediate Heirs. In this situation, the Courts can order the property to be sold and any profits distributed to the closest relatives.

High Level Steps for Selling a House in Probate

If you own a property in Kentucky that is stuck in probate and you’re struggling to find a way to sell, there is hope! Depending on local and state laws, the process of selling a probate property can be completed in four steps. The first step is having an executor or administrator assigned, if there wasn’t one already assigned by the deceased.

If you are assigned as the executor (or you and the executor are in agreement on how to continue), you now have the ability to decide whether to sell the property or keep it. Whether the estate owes money to creditors or you inherited a house in another state that doesn’t make sense to keep, you can decide to sell that property and walk away. But before you put up that For Sale sign, you’ll need to have the property appraised. Once that is complete, only then can you petition the Court so that you can list the property for sale on your own (FSBO) with a trusted realtor who has experience with probate properties, or sell it directly to an investor.

Decide How to Sell the Property: 

  1. Valuation or Appraisal 

First up is finding out how much that property is worth. To do this you’ll need a valuation of the property by a trusted professional, or you’ll need to hire a professional appraiser that understands the law in the area as it pertains to the process of evaluating the property’s current value. In many states, the Court requires the property to be sold for at least 90% of its appraised value. That makes it even more important to find an appraiser with probate property experience that won’t balloon the worth of the land. Getting an appraisal or a market evaluation from an experienced realtor in your area will take the burden off of the Executor who usually is not a real estate professional. The real estate market is always changing and we highly recommend you get a professional opinion for the value of your property.

  1. Listing the House 

Once you have your appraisal, you, the executor, and/or your lawyer will need to file an intention to sell the house and other assets with the court. This form will include the final appraisal amount and which method you would like to use to sell the property. Methods can include: auction, traditional market sale with a realtor, selling directly to an investor, and more. This is where we will show you the many options available so you can choose what is best for your situation. When the petition is approved, you are ready to list the property to let buyers know that the property is available. Whether you choose to sell the house yourself, use an experienced real estate agent, or sell directly to an investor, make sure that you have someone in your corner that has experience with probate properties.

  1. Offers

Whether offers fly in or trickle, eventually you’ll need to decide which offer is right for you. Evaluating your goals for the sale of a house is an important part of this step. Do you need a quick sale so that you can pay off the estate’s debts? Would you prefer to wait a bit longer and see if you can get more profit from the sale? Or is the property in disrepair and needs a special buyer who can handle a complete remodel? These are all things you’ll need to take into consideration when you decide when and how to list a property in probate.

Knowing what goals you need to meet with the sale of the property will help you decide which offer to accept so that you can move on to the next step…

  1. Notice of Proposed Action

Once a buyer makes an offer, they need to be informed that the sale can only be completed after the court’s confirmation. Due to disclosure law, this should not come as a surprise but a buyer inexperienced in probate may balk at the added time needed for the sale. This is often one of the reasons why a probate house is skipped over for another property, even if the probate property is priced to sell fast. The delayed timeline may cause a buyer to decide it’s not worth the wait. But if a buyer has come forward with an offer and doesn’t mind the wait, the Court will review the bid before releasing an order to approve the sale of the property.

  1. Bidding

In the case of auctions, a property in probate can be marketed as ready to sell before the Court finalizes an Approval to Sale to help draw in more interested parties to bid. In the case of auctions, the Court often is the one who handles the bids. There are strict rules and guidelines that must be followed for this type of sale, making it only used as a last resort. Once someone has won the bidding the executor will petition the court to authorize the sale of the property, but if any of the Heirs object the sale can be canceled and the property put on hold as the Court decides the next steps.

  1. Finalization of Sale

Hopefully, the sale of that house, condo, rental property, or piece of land is a smooth and straightforward experience. Even if you experienced a few hitches along the way, once you have an offer that the Court accepts it’s time to finalize the sale. The executor or lawyer will need to file a final account and petition for the final distribution but once the Court approves this, title documents can be signed to make the house sale official.

Specific Steps to Sell Probate Real Estate in Kentucky

Probating real estate in Kentucky involves specific steps that an executor needs to follow. Here is a general outline of the process:

  1. Filing the Petition:
    • File a petition for probate with the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived at the time of their death.
    • Request appointment as the executor or administrator of the estate.
  1. Notification of Interested Parties:
    • Notify heirs, beneficiaries, and other interested parties about the probate proceedings.
    • Publish a notice in a local newspaper to inform potential creditors.
  1. Secure the Real Estate:
    • Take steps to secure and protect the real estate, such as changing locks or maintaining insurance coverage.
  1. Obtain Grant of Probate:
    • If the court approves the petition, obtain a grant of probate (if there is a will) or letters of administration (if there is no will).
    • This document provides the legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.
  1. Inventory and Appraisal:
    • Prepare an inventory of the deceased person’s assets, including the real estate.
    • Obtain professional appraisals of the real estate to determine its fair market value.
  1. Notice to Creditors:
    • Notify creditors of the probate proceedings, giving them an opportunity to file claims against the estate.
    • Address and settle valid creditor claims.
  1. Payment of Debts and Taxes:
    • Use estate funds to pay off outstanding debts, including mortgages, property taxes, and other obligations related to the real estate.
    • File any necessary tax returns and settle outstanding tax liabilities.
  1. Transfer of Title:
    • Once debts and taxes are resolved, the executor can initiate the transfer of the real estate title to the heirs or beneficiaries.
    • This may involve filing a deed to transfer ownership.
  1. Sale of Real Estate (if applicable):
    • If the will or circumstances require the sale of the real estate, the executor must follow the legal procedures for selling property.
    • Obtain court approval for the sale if necessary.
  1. Final Accounting and Distribution:
    • Prepare a final accounting detailing all transactions related to the real estate and the estate as a whole.
    • Distribute the remaining assets, including the real estate, to the heirs or beneficiaries as specified in the will or according to state laws.
  1. Close the Estate:
    • Petition the court to close the probate estate once all tasks are completed, and the court is satisfied with the administration.

It’s important to note that the probate process can be complex, and the specific steps may vary based on the circumstances of the estate. Executors should consider seeking legal guidance from an attorney experienced in Kentucky probate law to ensure compliance with all relevant regulations.

Should You Do Probate Yourself?

Whether or not to proceed with the probate process without an attorney depends on the complexity of the estate, the presence of a valid will, and the individual’s comfort level with legal processes. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Simple Estates: If the estate is relatively small, straightforward, and uncontested, individuals may choose to handle the probate process without an attorney. Simple estates with clear instructions in the will and minimal assets may not require legal assistance.
  2. Executor’s Competence: If the appointed executor or administrator is well-organized, diligent, and comfortable with legal and financial matters, they may be able to navigate the probate process without an attorney.
  3. Legal Knowledge: Individuals who have a good understanding of probate laws in Kentucky, as well as the specific rules and procedures, may feel confident handling the process without legal representation.
  4. Time and Effort: Probate can be time-consuming and may require a significant amount of effort to gather and manage the necessary documentation, communicate with creditors, and distribute assets. Consider whether you have the time and energy to handle these tasks.

However, there are situations where hiring an attorney for the probate process is advisable:

  1. Complex Estates: If the estate is complex, with multiple assets, debts, or disputes among heirs, it may be wise to seek legal guidance to navigate potential challenges.
  2. Contested Wills: If there are disputes over the validity of the will or disagreements among heirs, having legal representation can help protect your interests and ensure a fair resolution.
  3. Legal Technicalities: Probate laws and procedures can be intricate. If you are not familiar with the legal requirements, it’s safer to consult with an attorney to avoid mistakes that could lead to delays or complications.
  4. Legal Advice: An attorney can provide valuable advice on tax implications, estate planning strategies, and other legal aspects, ensuring that the estate is handled in compliance with applicable laws.

Ultimately, the decision to proceed without an attorney or to seek legal assistance in the probate process depends on individual circumstances. It may be helpful to consult with an attorney for an initial assessment before making a decision.

Mistakes to Avoid When Selling a Probate Property 

  1. Moving Too Quickly 

When a person passes away, their family may try to move as quickly as possible to sell the property so that they have time to grieve. Or, if there is debt that has interest that is compounding monthly, the executor or administrator will try to sell the house as quickly as possible by valuing it below market value to pay off the estate. Sometimes a too-fast sale can also happen when the house is in poor shape or needs major upgrades the beneficiaries do not want to pay for. They may undervalue the property so that they can sell it as-is.

  1. Not Completing a Real Estate Disclosure 

Depending on what state you live in, Real Estate Disclosure laws can be almost as tricky as the probate process! These laws are a list of issues (such as lead paint or asbestos) that must be disclosed to the buyers about a home before closing on the property. 

Most states require sellers and their agents to disclose in writing “material defects” about the home. According to the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors, material defects are “…a specific issue with a system or component of a residential property that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people. The fact that a system or component is near, at or beyond the end of its normal useful life is not, in itself, a material defect.”

Experienced real estate agents are great at navigating these tricky waters, but what if you inherited a house that you never lived in? How would you know what to disclose? In some states, the executor, person selling the property, and/or real estate agent may be exempt from filling out local real estate disclosure forms due to the property being in probate. This is because that person does not and did not live in the property, so would have no way of knowing what to disclose.

If you are unsure of your state laws, someone who is experienced in probate real estate (whether it be a real estate agent or investor who has purchased probate properties in the past) will be able to help you navigate these legal waters. If looking into the latter option, be sure to sell your property directly to an experienced investor who doesn’t mind purchasing a property in probate and is willing to take the risk of purchasing a home from someone who is unable to give proper disclosure. You do have options!

  1. Failing to Hire a Lawyer

We can not emphasize this enough – a knowledgeable real estate lawyer with experience in probate can help you navigate the process of probate much faster and easier than going at it alone! Not only will they know how to petition the Court so that you can finally put that property up for sale, but they’ll be able to guide you through the legal steps to sell that unwanted house or property with less hassle and tears. Even consulting will help ensure you aren’t missing the blind spots of the probate process.

  1. Waiting Too Long to Start the Probate Process

When someone loses a loved one, grief may cause us to put everything on hold while we process the loss of the deceased in our life. But what happens to the probate property during that time? Property taxes continue to add up, utility bills continue to come in, and the bank will want its monthly mortgage payments until the property is settled. Waiting too long can cause the estate’s expenses to add up fast, eating into the estate’s assets and leaving you in a difficult situation.

Who Buys Houses in Probate? 

We do! Grace Buys Houses is a direct house buying company that has built our reputation on buying houses for cash with less stress and less fees. We have multiple was to help you sell your probate property. Contact us today and get a competitive cash offer for that house or property that’s stuck in probate. We buy homes in any condition. We can help you with the convoluted process of selling a house in probate, making the process faster and as stress-free as possible.

KY Probate Definitions

In Kentucky probate law, several terms and concepts have specific meanings. Understanding these common definitions can be helpful when navigating the probate process. Here are some key terms:

  1. Probate: The legal process by which a deceased person’s estate is administered, including the validation of the will, appointment of an executor or administrator, inventory of assets, payment of debts, and distribution of remaining assets.
  2. Executor: A person named in the will to carry out the deceased person’s wishes and manage the estate’s administration. If there is no will, the court appoints an administrator.
  3. Administrator: If there is no will or the named executor is unable or unwilling to serve, the court appoints an administrator to manage the estate.
  4. Testator/Testatrix: A testator is a person who has made a will. A testatrix specifically refers to a female who has made a will.
  5. Intestate: When a person dies without a valid will, they are said to have died intestate. In such cases, the state’s intestacy laws govern the distribution of the estate.
  6. Grant of Probate/Letters of Administration: A court order that grants legal authority to the executor (in the case of a will) or administrator (in the case of intestacy) to carry out their duties.
  7. Heir: A person who is entitled to inherit from the deceased person’s estate either by the terms of the will or according to state laws of intestacy.
  8. Beneficiary: An individual or entity named in a will or trust to receive specific assets or benefits from the estate.
  9. Creditor: A person or entity to whom the deceased person owed money or had outstanding debts.
  10. Estate: The total property, assets, and debts left by a deceased person.
  11. Letters Testamentary: A document issued by the court to an executor, granting them the authority to act on behalf of the estate.
  12. Letters of Administration: Similar to letters testamentary, but issued when there is no will or the named executor is unable to serve.
  13. Intestate Succession: The legal process of determining how the estate will be distributed when a person dies without a will.
  14. Real Property: Real estate or land owned by the deceased person.
  15. Personal Property: Moveable assets such as cash, jewelry, vehicles, and household items.

It’s important to note that these definitions are general and may have specific nuances in Kentucky probate law. Consulting with a legal professional experienced in Kentucky probate matters is advisable for precise guidance based on your particular situation.

John Jones - Author

About the Author

As a seasoned real estate investor with a deep understanding of the probate process, John is dedicated to guiding individuals and families through the complexities of property transactions during times of loss. With over 10 years of experience in real estate investment and a passion for helping others navigate the probate journey with sensitivity and expertise, he strives to provide compassionate support and tailored solutions to every client. Whether it’s assisting with property valuation, negotiating sales, or offering strategic advice, John is committed to delivering personalized service and peace of mind during what can be a challenging time. Let him guide you through the probate process with professionalism, integrity, and care.

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