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Probate Law and Information

Probate Basics

When a loved one passes, the family has many legal decisions to make concerning the property and debts of the deceased.  Unfortunately, the legal process does not give a family much time to grieve for their loss before deadlines start approaching.  And creditors are less than caring and understanding in these situations.  There are many things that you should be aware of when dealing with a love ones estate.

Testate vs. Intestate

Did the deceased make a Will? If so, then the Will must be admitted to the Court to dispose of the deceased belongings.  If there is not a Will, then the belongings will be handled according to a set of statutes set out by the Tennessee Legislature.  In essence, there is no such thing as someone passing away without knowing where there property is going to go.  If the person had a Will, you will need to file it with the Court.  How quickly you do this determines the procedures that will follow.

Opening an Estate

Anyone who would inherit from the deceased under Tennessee Law may file a petition to open an estate.  These petitions need to be filed in the county where the deceased lived at the time of their death and anyone who would inherit something under Tennessee Law must be given notice of the petition in case they want to dispute any part of the process.  Depending on when the estate is opened, you may have to publish notice to creditors in the newspaper so that people who may have been owed money by the deceased are given notice.  If there is a Will then you petition the court to admit the Will to probate.  The court will issue a Letter of Administration which allows the person designated as the representative/administrator/executor to carry out certain tasks on behalf of the estate.

After the Estate is Opened

There are many forms that need to be filled out to determine if the State is owed any taxes, if TennCare or Medicare are owed any funds, and even possible Federal taxes. If there are any unpaid funeral expenses or other creditors, they will file a claim against the estate and notify the Court how much they are owed. The representative/administrator/ executor must send a notice to all of the creditors they know about and tell them that the person is diseased and an estate has been opened.  If the creditor does not file a claim, then they are not entitled to be paid.  All of this process takes time and can involve multiple court hearings to contest certain claims against the estate.

Closing the Estate

Once all of the creditors have been identified, all of the property and assets have been identified, everyone having a right to inherit under Tennessee Law has had a chance to dispute the process, and all of the appropriate tax and TennCare forms have been filed, the estate can be closed.  To do this, everyone must acknowledge that they received what they were supposed to get from the estate.  If they cannot or will not do so, then a complete accounting of the assets must be filed with the Court.  Once all of this is completed, the clerk’s office will send a bill for the court costs and the matter will be closed.

Probate matters can be long and difficult processes with many details that prevent matters from concluding.  Even if all of the heirs are in agreement and the estate is very small, the paperwork and due process requirements can be overwhelming.  It is very difficult for a family to grieve their loss while dealing with legal issues.  Our firm is happy to help during these difficult times.  We make every effort to work efficiently, promptly, and to explain the processes to our clients in clear and plain language.  Having an attorney can help the family focus on the future without the worry and stress of navigating the legal system.

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