Probate and Estate Administration

We understand how hard the loss of a loved one can be. Court proceedings are the last thing that you want to experience during this time. However, we pride ourselves on being a comforting shoulder to lean on during hard times. Whether you need help with probate, administering a large estate, or administering a small estate, our Tennessee probate attorneys at The Higgins Firm Estate Group would be glad to guide you. Our goal is to keep our clients informed, comforted, and stress-free.

What Is Probate?

You may have heard the word “probate,” but what is it exactly? Probate can refer to the presentment of a will to the court, which is known as “probating” a will. Probate also refers to the type of court in which the estate administration proceedings are held. However, probate typically refers to the court process where the estate is administered following a death. The process consists of satisfying the decedent’s outstanding debts and distributing the remaining assets. In Tennessee, chancery courts have exclusive jurisdiction to hear probate matters.

Does Everything Go though Probate?

No, not all of a decedent’s assets must go through probate. Generally, only those assets that the decedent had in his or her name alone are required to go through probate.

Assets that are NOT typically a part of the probate estate may include:

  • Property held in joint tenancy
  • Property held in tenancy by the entirety
  • Payable-on-death bank accounts
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Assets registered in transfer-on-death form
  • Retirement accounts
  • Living trust assets
What Are the Probate Steps?

The probate process provides for a supervised orderly means of transferring your assets that make up the probate estate. This process usually involves several steps:

  1. The court determines whether there are assets subject to probate.
  2. The Will is presented to the court to determine validity.
  3. A personal representative, also known as the executor, is appointed to open the estate.
  4. Creditors and beneficiaries are notified that the estate has opened.
  5. The personal representative collects the assets that pass through the estate.
  6. Any debts of the estate are paid off.
  7. The assets are distributed to the specified beneficiaries.
  8. The estate is closed.

Some individuals may not have a will. If an individual dies without a will, which is commonly known as dying “intestate,” the court follows the same procedures only without the will verification.

Is Small Estate Administration an Option?

If you need an estate administration, what is known as a “small estate administration” may be an option for you. A small estate administration is a quicker and simpler version of the probate process. While the probate court is still involved, it exerts less control over the settling of the estate.

Tennessee law provides for a small estate administration if the personal property totals under $50,000 and if no other person has filed a petition to probate the will. Personal property basically includes all belongings other than real estate or land. In addition, you are not able to include any property held jointly with right of survivorship.

The small estate procedure commences 45 days following the death of an individual. A filing fee is paid to the probate court where the deceased person legally resided. Also, an affidavit is filed to show certain aspects of the estate including: whether there is a will; a list of unpaid debts; itemized description of the property and anyone possessing the property; any insurance payable to the estate; anyone entitled to receive any property; and whether notice will be given to creditors. The court may require a bond. The court will then issue a certified copy to the affiant. The affiant is responsible for the management, distribution, and care of the property upon taking possession. The affiant will pay the required debts and then distribute the property accordingly.

How Are the Costs Paid?

Any costs for probate or estate administrations are paid out of the estate and not your pocket. Our fixed rate fees are taken directly from the estate.

If you need help with probate or estate administrations, contact our Tennessee probate lawyers at The Higgins Firm Estate Group. We would be happy to assist you.