This is one in a series of researching tips taken from presentations by Betty R. Darnell, a noted local historian and genealogist. These notes are copyrighted by her.
In Kentucky, probate records are at the county clerk’s office. Older records are also on microfilm at the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives (KDLA), Frankfort; at the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS); and maybe at the local library. (In some states, probate records are at the circuit clerk’s office.)
The principal heir petitions the court to begin the probate process (may be verbal, recorded in probate minute books; later records may include petition naming all heirs)
Witnesses to the will attest in court; the original will is retained by the court
Court approves the executor or names an administrator; administrator posts a bond equal to the worth of the estate
Court appoints three men to inventory and appraise the estate; guardian is appointed for minor heirs
If estate needs the cash, an estate sale is authorized; sale bill is recorded, naming buyers, item purchased, and price
Periodic settlements record payments made to the estate, payments made by the estate, and payments made to the heirs
When all parties agree, and when all heirs reach age 21, the property is divided and the case is closed. Each heir signs a receipt, often giving place of residence, and daughters’ husbands’ names. (Some probate processes may continue for 20 years, if there are minor heirs.)
The will books are transcripts of the original records. Look for the originals.
Early wills may be recorded in deed books. Later estate records may be recorded in separate books: Wills, Inventories & Appraisals, Sales, Settlements.
If the deceased owned land and did not leave a will, there should be a deed from “the heirs of …” listing all the heirs with their places of residence.