There are a number of questions that we frequently hear related to wills, probate, and other estate matters here in Tennessee. We hope that the following information can help answer some of your questions.

What happens if I die without a will in Tennessee?

When someone dies without a will, the state considers them to have died “intestate.” When a person dies with a valid will, the state considers them to have died “testate.” When a person dies testate, their assets largely pass based on the language in their will. However, if you die intestate in Tennessee, your assets are distributed to your closest relatives according to the state’s intestate succession laws. The statutes set forth which relatives receive a portion of your estate. Consequently, the family relationship determines where the decedent’s assets go as opposed to the decedent’s preferences where the assets should go.

What are the benefits of having a will in Tennessee?

There are a number of benefits to having a will in Tennessee. One of the best reasons is having the ability to decide where your assets should be distributed. Otherwise, state statutes set forth who receives what portion of the decedent’s assets following a death. Another important reason is determining who would be the legal guardian for any minor children. Without designating a guardian for any minor children in a will, the court would be left to determine who should care for the children in the event something happened. Another benefit to having a will is diminishing the prospect of any disagreements or disputes regarding the distribution of particular assets among family members or friends following a death.

What is Probate in Tennessee?

Probate is a word that can take many forms. Probate can mean presenting a will to the court, known as “probating a will.” Also, probate can refer to the type of court that hears estate administration cases, known as “probate court.” However, most commonly probate refers to the actual court process where an estate is administered following a person’s death, known as “going through probate.” This process ensures that the decedent’s debts are paid off and assets are distributed according to the will or intestacy statutes.

What assets are required to go through probate in Tennessee?

Not every asset must go through the probate process. Only certain assets are required to go through the formal process. This typically requires the hiring of an attorney. Probate assets include any asset that is titled in the decedent’s name without the designation of a particular beneficiary or joint ownership with another person. These assets can include any retirement accounts or life insurance policy that may list the estate as a beneficiary. Similarly, this also may include any real estate that is titled in the decedent’s name.

Do I have to hire an attorney to probate an estate in Tennessee?

It is highly recommended that you hire an attorney to probate an estate in Tennessee. Probate can be a very complicated process with certain legal requirements that must be met in order to comply with court rules and regulations. There are a number of deadlines that must be met in order to properly probate an estate. Further, many counties require that a licensed attorney probate the estate.

If you have any further questions, be sure to contact the Tennessee estate attorneys at The Higgins Firm. Our Nashville based probate lawyers would be happy to answer any questions that you may have.