Experienced 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 the 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.
Contact Batson & Nolan PLC today online.
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.
Other Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Probate
Can I Just Skip Probate?
If you are the executor or personal representative for a will, you should hire a probate attorney because the will must go through probate. In addition, even without a will, there are likely some assets that will require the oversight of probate courts. For instance, assume that the only asset involved is a singular bank account. If that account is not held jointly, you will need to probate the estate. Try not to fear the probate process. Instead, turn your concerns over to an experienced Springfield probate attorney. If there is an avenue to avoid probate, probate attorneys will advise you accordingly.
The Will Is in Probate. Is It Too Late to Hire Probate Lawyers?
Even if the probate process has started, it is not too late to engage one of Batson Nolan PLC’s Springfield probate attorneys. You still should still seek a lawyer if you are:
- The executor or personal representative for the will;
- A beneficiary of the will who is unhappy with the terms of the will and may want to contest it; or
- A person who was not named as a beneficiary but thinks they have a claim to the estate.
At any point before or during the probate process, you may need a probate lawyer if you fall into the category above. It is not too late to seek help even if the will is in probate.
How Do I Find a Good Attorney?
It is important to find Springfield probate lawyers, not just any lawyers. Probate is a specialized legal field. Therefore you want someone who has experience in the field of wills, trust, and probate. If you need representation in Tennessee or particularly Springfield, probate attorneys with impressive credentials and veterans in the probate arena are available.
There’s Probate Information Online. Can’t Someone Handle This Without Probate Lawyers?
Probate laws vary from state to state, have a lot of depth and nuance, and change over time. Probate lawyers have extensive training and years of practice in this complex legal field. They’ll know the best way to proceed in your exact situation.
In addition, probating an estate can be complex and may include the following:
- Opening the estate in probate court;
- Creating an inventory of all of the assets of the deceased person;
- Verifying and paying creditors;
- Looking for unknown assets, e.g., contacting banks within a certain area of where the deceased person lived to look for forgotten accounts;
- Filing the deceased person’s federal and state tax returns;
- Assessing the need for filing an estate tax return and acting accordingly;
- Appraising and selling assets;
- Locating and notifying beneficiaries; and
- Reporting information to the court.
Probate attorneys can do all of the above. Don’t make the probate process more stressful on yourself than it needs to be. There are client-focused firms of Springfield probate lawyers available to efficiently and correctly handle your probate needs.
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. Call our Springfield probate lawyer today or contact us online to set up a free consultation in our Clarksville or Springfield office.
Our experienced lawyers also handle other legal cases, including: