Probate Attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee
You may have heard the term “probate” before or even known someone who’s had to go through the probate process, but you still may not have a clear understanding of what exactly it involves. There will likely come a time in your life when a parent or loved one dies, and you may have to answer the questions, “What is probate?” or “What happens when someone dies without a will?”
If you’d like to speak to an experienced probate attorney about your role as the executor of a will, or to start writing a will of your own, call me, Mark E. Tillery, Attorney at Law. My office is located in Knoxville, Tennessee, and I proudly serve clients in the surrounding areas of Knox County, Maryville, Farragut, and Clinton.
What Is Probate?
Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies and their estate needs to be addressed. This process can occur whether the deceased had created a will or they died without a will in place (known as “dying intestate”). A will needs to be “proven” in court, meaning the contents of the estate that is left behind must be processed through the court before they can be distributed to the named beneficiaries. This may mean that heirs must wait anywhere from several months to more than a year before they’re able to receive their assets. This is because any outstanding debts and past-due taxes will also need to be addressed by whoever is named as the executor or administrator of the estate.
This process is made easier if the deceased has left a will because it will outline their wishes for their assets, name an executor, and name a legal guardian for any minor children or pets. A will can also state what kind (if any) of funeral service a person wants. However, just because the assets and beneficiaries are listed in a will, doesn’t mean the executor will have no work to do. Many people named to this role choose to hire an attorney to help them.
What Happens if You Die Without a Will?
If you die intestate, a judge will assign an administrator of your estate (typically a surviving spouse or another close family member), and they’ll be responsible for taking your estate through probate. This can add additional stress and strain on your family members who may be struggling to deal with their loss. Wills give your loved ones a clear set of instructions and can make the entire probate process easier.
Because no two estates are the same, the assets that are listed in a will are never the same. However, there are some common assets that make their way through probate regularly. The assets must be owned either entirely or jointly by the deceased and can include IRA funds, bonds, stocks, pensions, physical property, wages or salary, family heirlooms, vehicles, furniture, jewelry, and other household goods.
Probate in Tennessee
Not all estates have to go through the probate process in Tennessee. If the total worth of the estate is less than $50,000 (not counting real estate), then the assets can be directly distributed to the heirs without having the courts intervene. Additionally, unlike many other states that have an estate or inheritance tax, there is no such tax in Tennessee.
The Probate Process
The probate process will more or less look the same regardless of what state you’re in. First, you’ll have to determine who the executor or administrator is, and that person will have to contact the decedent’s county courthouse and file a “petition of probate.” The executor will often choose to first open a bank account that’s solely for the estate and use it to pay debts, taxes, attorney fees, and any other estate expenses. They will then be responsible for working with the courts for the duration of this process, which can last several months.
The executor must then locate, inventory, and appraise all of the assets left by the deceased. They must also post a notice of the death and make an effort to contact any creditors who were left unpaid. The executor cannot distribute any assets until all creditors have been given enough time to come forward to request their debts be paid. During this time, the executor should also reach out to all named beneficiaries to notify them they’ve been named in the will. They’ll then have to pay off debt and taxes, cover any expenses, and only afterward can the assets be distributed to heirs.
The executor may or may not choose to work with a probate attorney to help with this process, but this can be especially helpful if the estate is large or complicated, or if they foresee any will contests arising during the estate administration process.
Probate Attorney in Knoxville, Tennessee
For skilled guidance during the Tennessee probate process, reach out to me, Mark E. Tillery, Attorney at Law. I’m prepared to answer your questions and assist you with the various tasks associated with probate. From my office in Knoxville, I proudly serve clients throughout Knox County and the surrounding areas of Maryville, Farragut, and Clinton, Tennessee.