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Understanding probate law in Tennessee

On Behalf of | Feb 2, 2023 | Probate & Estate Administration |

It is difficult to think about what might happen at the end of your life when you most likely have a long way to go until then. However, it is important to be prepared for what will come in the future and it is never too early to make sure that you are prepared because you really never know what will happen from one day to the next.

The probate process in Tennessee can be rather complex and it may be easy to become overwhelmed by all of the details, rules and regulations that are involved. By definition, probate describes the process of validating the will of the person who has passed away. Additionally, probate outlines estate administration, which means identifying the property of the estate, taking care of any debts that the estate has and handing over the property of the person who has passed away to their beneficiaries.

The probate court in Tennessee

In the state of Tennessee, the Chancery Court acts as the probate court. This means that the probate court has jurisdiction over everything related to administering the deceased person’s estate(s), which includes will(s). Within the court, many of the activities are overseen by the clerk and master of the court, which then must be approved by the chancellor.

What is the probate process?

In Tennessee, in order for the probate process to begin, someone must submit a petition of probate to the court. There are two different types of forms, the common form and the solemn form. The common form is used when the proceedings are anticipated to run smoothly and without complications. The solemn form is used when issues are anticipated. If the solemn form is used, the people involved have to be notified because objections are expected.

After the will has been proved as valid and a personal representative has been chosen, that person is responsible for carrying out tasks that will serve to settle the deceased person’s estate. These steps are critical to the process:

  • Estate inventory:  The deceased person’s representative needs to find the assets in the decedent’s estate, put them in a safe and secure place and attach a value to them. It is important for the representative to appraise the assets because they need to know the value so that they can resolve all debts and expenses and also distribute those designated assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries.
  • Debt and expense payment: The court clerk must give public notice of the appointment of the representative. The notice allows creditors to understand that the estate has been opened so that they can submit their claims. The creditors have four months to file a claim. If they don’t file within that time, they will not be allowed to file. It is the responsibility of the representative to pay all valid claims that have been filed. However, the representative can only do so if there is enough money in the estate. The representative is also responsible for paying expenses that are related to estate administration.
  • Distributing assets: The last important step in the process is distributing the assets. The assets can only be distributed after the claims have been paid and money has been set aside for expenses. After the asset distribution is complete, the estate will be considered closed and probate will end.

What happens if there are issues with the estate?

If there are issues with the estate, probate litigation may occur. That is something to avoid if at all possible because it often makes a difficult situation even worse. The people involved are grieving the loss of their loved one and to have to fight about issues connected with the estate on top of that can really bring up a lot of painful emotions. There are many different reasons why probate litigation ends up happening, such as someone contesting the will, a breach of fiduciary duty, disagreements over shares of the estate, etc.

If you are having a similar experience, the legal advice of a Tennessee probate lawyer may prove to be invaluable. If you have been appointed as the executor of your loved one’s estate, you may have to deal with a lot of complications. That can be especially difficult while you are grieving. Solid legal advice may really help you to handle everything successfully. A knowledgeable probate lawyer can help you to shoulder the burden and to fulfill your responsibilities as the executor of the estate.