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After the death of a loved one, there are some steps you need to take to settle his or her estate properly and within the law. How much work it will take depends largely on the size of the estate.

However, according to the Kentucky Court of Justice, every case begins with finding the will of the deceased. You will need the original document, and you must file it with the district court, along with a petition for probate. If there is no will, you will only file the petition.

Probate

Once the estate enters probate, the court will ensure there is an executor who is the representative for the estate. If the will does not name an executor, then the court will appoint one. Most often it is the next of kin, such as the spouse or a child.

The court will go through the process of validating the will to ensure it is a legally sound and valid document.

If there is no will, the court will appoint an administrator who will do a similar job to the executor.

Administration

The executor or administrator will have to finalize all debts, find heirs and manage the assets throughout the probate process. If this is you, then you will also need to file an inventory record of the estate that includes the value of each asset.

Settlement

Settling the estate involves distributing all assets and paying all debts. In your role as executor or administrator, you will file a final settlement with the court. You cannot final an estate until you have been in the executor or administrator position for at least six months.