As a surviving spouse, it is important to gain a full understanding of your rights under Kentucky law with respect to your late spouse’s estate. Kentucky, unlike many other states, has retained a version of dower in its statutory scheme regarding the descent and distribution of property.
The right of dower is an interest in property and not a lien, nor is it subject to the deceased spouse’s debts. As explained in Hannah v. Hannah:
The purpose of the dower statute is to insure that a surviving spouse will not be left disinherited and destitute. The statute is to apply in only those limited situations. It was not meant to utterly destroy the testator’s ability to give and devise his property as he desires so long as the spouse was provided for. If the widow is not satisfied with the will provisions, she can elect to seek her statutory remedy. But the plain language of the statute makes clear that she cannot have both.
824 S.W.2d 866, 868 (Ky. 1992).
A surviving spouse may renounce what he or she is entitled to receive under the will. KRS 392.080. Failure to renounce the will within the statutorily-specified time period will result in a probate of the will—acceptance and receipt of benefits, if any, under the will—but more importantly, a loss of the right to the surviving spouse’s dower interest.