What Is the Probate Process in Tennessee?
Probate is the process in which a will is validated, allowing a decedent’s estate to pass to named beneficiaries or heirs. It involves several steps, including notice to certain people and entities and the final payment of debts. This process can be complex depending on the size or nature of the estate. It can also be emotionally difficult when executors are handling the estates of loved ones, which is often the case. That’s why it’s a good idea to get help from an experienced probate attorney who can assist at each stage of the process.
In general, probate in Tennessee consists of these steps:
- Admitting the will — The probate process is started by the personal representative named in the will submitting the will to the probate clerk’s office in the county where the decedent lived. If there is no personal representative named or no will at all, an interested person can ask to be named as the executor. The surviving spouse is given priority over other relatives. The executor also prepares a Petition for Probate that tells the court of the decedent’s death and the need to open a probate case. The person filing the petition is required to give notice to the beneficiaries and heirs of the petition.
- Getting letters testamentary issued — The court issues letters testamentary to the executor that gives him or her the legal authority to act in this role. The executor can then start taking steps to identify estate assets and protect them. He or she may open a checking account for the estate to manage money coming into the estate and payment of debts.
- Providing notice to creditors — The executor must give notice to known creditors. Additionally, he or she must publish notice that explains being appointed as executor and that gives the creditors four months to submit a claim against the estate.
- Making an inventory — The executor must list the assets of the estate within 60 days.
- Paying debts — The executor must pay valid debts in the priority provided by Tennessee law.
- Filing tax returns — The executor is also responsible for filing the final state and federal income tax for the decedent and paying any taxes owed.
- Distributing the estate’s assets — The executor is responsible for distributing any assets that remain in the estate after the payment of debts. These assets are distributed according to the instructions of the will. If there is no will, the executor must distribute these assets according to state law.
The executor may be responsible for various other duties, depending on the estate in question. For example, he or she may be required to submit a notice to TennCare if the decedent was enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. If the will is contested, there will be additional proceedings and hearings.
An experienced probate attorney can make the often complex process of probate much less stressful at an already difficult time. The Epstein Law Firm in Chattanooga helps clients in Tennessee and Georgia to handle probate matters of all kinds. Call us at 423-265-5100 or contact us online for a free consultation.