How Long Does the Tennessee Probate Process Take and What’s Involved?
When an individual dies, some or all of their estate — such as personal belongings, financial assets and real property — may have to go through probate. This court process involves appointment of a personal representative — often a spouse or close family member — who is charged with paying any outstanding debt and taxes and eventually distributing assets to beneficiaries named in the deceased person’s will.
It sounds simple enough, but even relatively straightforward probate cases can be drawn out. In Tennessee, uncontested probate cases generally take six months to a year to adjudicate. The process allows time for creditors to make claims and for the estate to pay taxes and other expenses. If the will or any portion of it is contested, the process can go on far longer. Retaining a qualified Tennessee probate attorney is critical in these cases.
The probate process validates a written will and ensures that assets aren’t distributed until all debts have been settled, including liens, tax liabilities and funeral expenses. The first step is filing the original signed will with the county clerk’s office. The probate court can then appoint the personal representative — known as the executor — to take charge of the estate and carry out the decedent’s wishes.
The executor has 60 days to start the process by submitting an inventory of the estate’s assets, notifying heirs and creditors and asking the state’s tax authorities and the Medicaid agency, TennCare, for a release of any claims. A probate attorney can make court filings on your behalf and ensure that assets, debts, releases, notifications, expenses and other aspects of the estate have been properly documented.
Another time-consuming part of probate is the requirement to allow creditors four to 12 months to make a claim. The executor is responsible for notifying creditors and financial institutions, providing them with documentation such as a death certificate. If delays have caused unpaid balances to go to collection, the executor will have to contact those agencies and may be able to challenge interest and late fees, particularly if they accrued after the date of death.
Coping with the death of a loved one is emotionally taxing and the stress of dealing with probate can add to the strain. Your probate lawyer can guide you through the process and take some of those responsibilities off your plate, making sure that all documentation is complete and legally compliant.
Chattanooga attorney Valerie W. Epstein has many years of experience simplifying the probate experience for grieving family members and executors. Call the Epstein Law Firm at 423-265-5100 or contact us online for a free consultation.