Probate in Tennessee is the process of settling a deceased person’s estate with the court’s supervision to ensure all assets are distributed to their rightful beneficiaries and all debts are paid in full. The responsibility falls on the designated executor as outlined in the will, or the court will appoint someone – typically a surviving spouse or an adult child – to serve as the executor if no one is specifically listed.
This process doesn’t happen automatically. Instead, the executor must initiate it, and if it’s not, the estate remains closed, and assets can be lost instead of properly distributed. That can make the experience stressful for those responsible, but it is often an easy and straightforward experience. This helpful guide will clarify any questions and provide actionable steps to help you successfully execute the probate.
What assets require probate?
Bank and credit union accounts are included in probate unless there is a payable-on-death beneficiary listed. Similarly, investments, stocks, and bonds the decedent has sole ownership of must be probated. These are included to ensure creditors have their debt paid and beneficiaries receive their assets.
If the deceased owns any land or properties that are only in his or her name, or if they are co-owned as tenants in common with no right of survivorship, probate is also required. Finally, tangible property like clothing, jewelry, cars, and furniture also needs to be sorted and confirmed by the court before anyone can legally take ownership.
What are the required steps for probate in Tennessee?
To start probate, Tennessee residents must first identify all assets that are subject to the legal proceedings. The executor then presents the will to the probate court in the county the deceased lived to determine its validity. If there are no issues verifying the authenticity of the will, the probate is published. That alerts creditors and gives them four months from publication to claim a debt. If you believe a claimed debt is illegitimate, you can challenge it with a legal objection.
During that time, the executor has 60 days to file a complete inventory of the estate to the court. Those assets are then used to pay off all outstanding debt and remaining taxes, and a petition to close the probate is filed with the court. Once the probate is closed, all of the remaining property and assets are distributed to the beneficiaries.
Are there any exceptions to Probate?
One exception to the standard probate in Tennessee is the small estate administration exemption. If the property’s total value is less than $50,000, you can file an affidavit under the Tennessee Small Estates Act after 45 days to pay off unpaid debts and distribute the remaining assets. Certain assets can also avoid probate under particular conditions. Examples include bank or credit union accounts with Payable on Death or Transfer on Death documents, jointly owned property with a specified right of survivorship, and retirement accounts that designate beneficiaries.
If you are handling probate for Tennessee assets, you don’t have to do it alone.
Our team at the Law Office of Morgan Dale, PLLC, has helped many Nashville, TN clients navigate this complex and confusing process. Unlike larger firms that handle Tennessee probate cases, we offer personalized service with tailored solutions. We’re able to be with you every step of the way to make the whole experience as stress-free as possible. Visit us online to learn more about how a partnership with the Law Office of Morgan Dale, PLLC, can help you.