What Is Probate?
Probate is a legal process through which a deceased individual’s will is validated and their estate settled by the Tennessee court system. Even if someone dies without a will (intestate), their estate must go through probate.
Assets subject to probate in Tennessee include:
- Real estate solely owned by the deceased
- Financial assets (bank accounts, etc.) solely owned by the deceased
- Other personal property, including vehicles and valuables solely owned by the deceased
Assets typically not subject to probate in Tennessee include:
- Jointly owned property and accounts, including real estate and bank accounts
- Accounts with a payable-upon-death (POD) beneficiary
- Retirement accounts with named beneficiaries
- Life insurance policies with named beneficiaries
- Living trust assets
The Role of the Estate Administrator
During the probate process, whether there is a will or not, someone will be named the estate administrator or executor. The estate administrator is responsible for paying any debts owed by the deceased party, settling their taxes, and distributing any remaining assets to their beneficiaries or heirs. The deceased individual’s spouse, adult child, or other close relative is frequently named administrator, but not always.
The probate process is notoriously long and complicated. The average time for a traditional probate case to be resolved can range anywhere from six months to a year. However, depending on the nature of the decedent’s estate, there may be an option to go through a more simplified probate process. Simplified probate only has a 45-day waiting period. In Tennessee, if the decedent’s estate totals no more than $50,000, they may qualify to go through this simplified probate process.
If you are serving as an estate administrator or executor, and you believe the decedent’s estate qualifies for this simplified process, you may file a small estate affidavit with the court. The affidavit must include an itemized list of the deceased party’s assets and debts, as well as a list of all the estate’s heirs. The simplified probate request must also include the original will and a copy of the decedent’s death certificate.
This is just a small look at the filing requirements for simplified probate. If you believe that your situation qualifies, it is recommended that you consult with an experienced attorney like ours at Casey, Simmons & Bryant, PLLC. Our team can help you throughout the process, guiding you and helping you ensure that all stages of probate are managed accurately and efficiently.
How an Attorney Can Help
Many people have heard horror stories about how difficult and expensive the probate process is. If you are named as an executor, you have a long list of responsibilities to fulfill. Additionally, it is not uncommon for there to be surprises pop up during the probate process, slowing things down, and making things more complicated. As such, it is always recommended that you work with an experienced probate attorney.
Common probate issues an attorney can help with:
- Determining if an estate qualifies for simplified probate
- Fulfilling estate administrator responsibilities
- Preparing and submitting necessary court documents
- Identifying and locating the deceased person’s assets
- Locating and contacting the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries
- Dealing with issues associated with the deceased party’s creditors
Working with an attorney is especially valuable when the deceased loved one dies without a will or when there are challenges to the existing will. Both situations can be incredibly stressful, and your attorney can help you understand what is happening as well as provide you with the information you need to work towards a successful resolution.