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.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ease the process. Hiring a Springfield probate attorney early will help you make sure a will is administered properly. Not only will a Springfield probate lawyer help you make sure the estate’s assets are distributed according to your loved one’s wishes, but they will also help protect your family’s rights during the probate 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 cash, bank accounts, investments, retirement accounts, homes, cars, and the like. It includes everything right down to the decedent’s jewelry.
Not all items are part of the probate estate. However, these are typically items for which beneficiaries have already been named, including, 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.
1. Beneficiary Files a Petition to Probate the Will
The process begins when someone, usually a beneficiary, files a petition to probate the will. Depending on the size of the decedent’s family, not all interested parties will be aware of the probate proceedings at this stage. Accordingly, a notice of filing of the petition will be sent to all lawful heirs of the decedent.
2. The Court Schedules a Public Probate Hearing
Once the court schedules an open probate hearing, all interested parties will receive a notice of hearing. At this hearing, a probate judge will hear testimony to determine whether the decedent’s will is valid. If it is, the probate judge will appoint a personal representative (also called an executor) for the estate. The executor is responsible for administering the will and handling administrative matters during the probate process.
3. Executor Publishes a Notice to Creditors
Once appointed, the executor must publish a notice to creditors alerting any potential creditors to the probate proceedings. Any interested creditor has three months to come forward and make a claim against the assets of the estate. When necessary, the executor will pay all legally valid debts using the assets in the estate.
4. Executor Distributes the Remaining Assets
Once all debts have been paid, the executor distributes the remaining assets of the estate according to the will. This is the step when the decedent’s heirs and other beneficiaries receive their “share” of the estate.
5. Probate Judge Closes the Estate
Once the executor has administered the will and the estate’s assets have been paid, the process comes to a close. The probate judge will close the estate and mark the end of the probate proceedings.
What If Someone Contests the Will?
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.
What Happens If Someone Dies Without a Will?
If the decedent did not have a will, the courts distribute their assets according to Tennessee intestate succession laws. These laws are designed to provide a “one size fits all” approach to probate. As a result, dying without a will (or dying with an invalid will) means you won’t be able to ensure that your property is distributed according to your wishes.
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.
Our Experienced Springfield Probate Lawyers 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 attorneys 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.
Our experienced legal team also handles other family legal matters cases, including:
Call our Springfield probate lawyer today or contact us online to set up a free consultation in our Clarksville or Springfield office.