Proven Springfield Probate Attorneys Ready To Help You
When a loved one dies, it is never easy on the friends and family left behind. In the midst of intense emotional pain, the family must deal with funeral decisions, funeral expenses, and residual medical expenses. If the deceased was the family’s breadwinner, they must also scramble to compensate for lost income. The distribution of your assets is an issue that can profoundly impact your family. But this is even more true if they are struggling financially at the time of your death.
If the decedent did not have a will, the courts distribute their assets according to Tennessee intestate succession laws. But if they had a will, that will is processed and administered through a court process known as probate. First, the probate court will determine if the will is valid. If it is valid, the next step is to make sure that all valid creditors are paid off from the estate’s assets. Finally, the court will distribute the assets according to the decedent’s desires as specified in the will. Having a seasoned Springfield probate lawyer by your side during this process will help it go more quickly and smoothly. Your attorney also protects your rights throughout the process.
What Constitutes the Probate Estate?
Generally speaking, a person’s estate consists of all the property they own in the world. That property can be in the form of cash, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, homes, cars, and the like. It includes everything right down to the decedent’s jewelry. But some items are not part of the estate that is subject to probate. These are typically items that already stipulate a beneficiary and include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Jointly held real estate;
- Real estate held in tenancy by the entirety;
- Jointly owned bank accounts or other property;
- Payable-on-death bank accounts;
- Assets from a living trust;
- Assets legally listed as transferable upon death;
- Life insurance that names a beneficiary other than the estate;
- Retirement accounts that name a beneficiary other than the estate; and
- Essentially any other account that legally specifies a beneficiary other than the estate.
These items are not considered part of the estate and, therefore, never have to go through the probate process.
The Probate Process
The probate process begins when a person dies and someone presents their will to the courts for administration. There are several steps to this process:
- Someone (usually a beneficiary) files a Petition to Probate Will.
- A Notice of Filing of the Petition is sent to all lawful heirs of the decedent;
- The court schedules a public, open probate hearing;
- All interested parties receive a Notice of Hearing;
- A probate judge hears testimony and determines if the will is valid;
- The probate judge appoints a personal representative or executor of the estate;
- The executor publishes a Notice to Creditors, and any creditor has three months to come forward and make a claim against the assets of the estate;
- The executor pays all legally valid debts;
- The executor distributes the remaining assets of the estate according to the will specifications; and
- The judge closes the estate.
Of course, there are cases where someone contests the validity of the will or the specifications therein. The will challenger may believe that the deceased was not of sound mind when they created the will, that someone with ulterior motives unduly influenced them, or that fraud was involved. There are many reasons a judge might invalidate a will. If this happens, the ramifications for beneficiaries can be significant. It is always best to have a seasoned Springfield probate attorney by your side to ensure that the law is followed and that your rights as a beneficiary are protected.
Small Estate Administration
Tennessee allows for a simplified distribution of assets known as small estate administration. This simplified process is similar to probate, but the court has less control, making the process quicker and more efficient than probate. To qualify for small estate administration, the personal property of an estate must be worth $50,000 or less.
An Experienced Lawyer Can Help
Because it happens in the aftermath of a death, the probate process is never easy. But regardless of whether your loved one died with a large or small estate, their last wishes matter. The experienced Springfield probate legal team at Batson Nolan PLC can guide you through this process, handle all the details, and protect your interests while you recover from the death of your loved one. Call us today or contact us online to set up a free consultation in our Clarksville or Springfield office.