When a loved one dies, your family faces the difficult process of grieving and making funeral arrangements. After that, you may wonder who will pay the remaining medical bills and when you might receive your inheritance.
The time it takes for a person’s estate to go through probate in Tennessee depends on several factors, including the size of the estate, whether the deceased completed any estate planning, and whether anyone objects to the executor’s appointment or decisions.
Taking steps to plan your estate and prepare your will can reduce the time your estate spends in probate. At Batson Nolan PLC, the oldest law firm in Clarksville, our attorneys are experienced with the probate process in Tennessee. We can help you use the legal tools available to protect your family and estate or help you navigate the probate process.
This page will help you answer the question, How long does probate take in Tennessee? If you still have questions after reading this, contact our office, and we can assist you with your estate planning and probate needs.
What Is Probate in Tennessee?
Probate is the process of validating a will and appointing an executor (also called an administrator or personal representative). The estate administrator will collect the person’s assets, pay their debts, and make distributions to their beneficiaries. The probate process requires the administrator to make several filings, send notices to certain parties such as creditors and beneficiaries, and allow time for people to respond to those notices. Additionally, the executor must follow an order of priority when paying claims and making distributions. The order of priority in the order of highest to lowest priority is:
- Administrative expenses, attorney fees, and administrator’s fees;
- Funeral expenses;
- Taxes or assessments owed to the federal or state government;
- Claims filed by creditors; and
- If any assets remain, the beneficiaries receive a portion of the estate.
Finally, the probate court may need to handle objections to the executor’s decisions before the beneficiaries receive any distributions.
How Long Does It Take for Will To Go Through Probate in Tennessee?
In an ordinary probate process, creditors have a 4 to 12-month period to file claims against the estate. Thus, a straightforward, uncontested will could complete the probate process in as little as six months. On the other hand, the estate of a person who died without a will or whose will is contested could take many more months or even years to probate.
What Makes Probate Longer?
Objections and disputes make the probate process longer. There are three significant aspects to which an interested person might object: the will’s validity, the executor’s appointment or administration, and the creditor’s claims.
Objections to the Will’s Validity
The first step to probating a will is finding the executor. To begin the probate process, the executor files the person’s will or a statement that the decedent died intestate, which means they died without leaving a will. Usually, a will appoints an executor and requires property to be distributed in a certain way. If a person dies intestate, the law provides default rules for managing the estate, including appointing an administrator. Because a will can be oral, handwritten, or unsigned, there are many opportunities for objections at this stage. It is in the court’s best interest to uphold the deceased’s will and avoid lengthy probate proceedings. Still, the court must adhere to the complex laws governing the validity of a will.
Objections to the Executor’s Appointment or Administration
While you can object to a will, an interested party may also appeal the grant of letters that establishes who the executor will be. Usually, the will names a family member as an executor, but any person over 18 can serve in the role. A family member might object to an executor’s appointment for three reasons:
- The executor lacks the capacity to administer the estate because they are under the age of 18, have been convicted of a felony, or suffer from severe physical or mental incapacitation;
- The executor refuses or fails to administer the estate effectively, causing the estate to waste away or lose value; or
- The executor acts against the best interests of the beneficiaries in administering the estate, such as acting dishonestly, abusing the position to benefit their own interests, or selling assets for less than fair market value.
If you want to file an objection to the executor, your probate attorney can help you draft and file the appropriate motion.
Objections to Creditors’ Claims
Once the executor receives authority to manage the estate, they have 60 days to file an inventory of the estate with the probate court. Creditors then have up to 12 months to enter their claims on the record. An interested party may object to the creditor’s claim and request a jury trial or hearing within 30 days. After 90 days with no objection, the court may approve the creditor’s claim. The executor must pay the authorized claim within the next 90 days. Thus, it is crucial to make your objection as soon as you receive notice of the creditors’ claim.
What Are My Options To Avoid Probate?
An experienced attorney can help you make a plan to avoid probate. When planning your estate, we will explain several tools that can be used to give your property directly to your beneficiaries upon your death, such as:
- Living trusts,
- Joint ownership with right of survivorship,
- Payable-on-death designations for bank accounts, and
- Transfer-on-death registration for securities.
Another option that would allow your family to avoid probate is the Small Estate Affidavit Limited Letter of Authority Act. If the value of your estate is less than $50,000, your family can file a request for a simplified probate process. Using the small estate process allows you to avoid having the estate administered through a probate court.
The experienced attorneys at Batson Nolan PLC offer comprehensive estate planning services built on our legacy of trust and reputation for success. We help individuals across Tennessee secure their family’s farm, wealth, and assets. We can help you plan for the future and answer any questions you might have about the probate process. Whether you stand to inherit a large estate or need to object to an ineffective executor, our experienced attorneys are ready to guide you through the probate processes. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you navigate your estate planning and probate concerns.