Estate Attorney Skillfully Manages the Probate Process in Tennessee
Smyrna probate lawyer provides dedicated guidance
When a person makes out a will, they’ve given precise instructions on how they wish their property and other interests to be managed and distributed after death. However, before a will can be implemented, the decedent’s estate must go through an extensive court process known as probate. If you have been asked to be the personal representative of a decedent’s estate, Gasser Law PLLC, in Smyrna, Tennessee has the knowledge and skill to provide the advice and guidance you need to efficiently complete the probate process.
How an estate is probated in Tennessee
Probate is the legal procedure by which a court settles a person’s estate after their death. It generally includes the following steps:
- The court appoints a personal representative to administer the estate. This may be the executor named in the will or another person deemed qualified.
- The will must be filed in the probate office and proven valid.
- Creditors of the decedent are notified so they can file claims for payment.
- Taxes and other debts are paid.
- An inventory of the estate is prepared and filed in court.
- The personal representative distributes the estate’s net assets to the beneficiaries as directed in the will.
Whether or not I assisted in preparation of the will, I can advise the personal representative through every step of the process.
What assets are part of an estate?
Generally, only property owned solely by the decedent, rather than jointly with someone else, is subject to probate. Property that is jointly owned passes automatically to the co-owners(s) if there is a right of survivorship. Otherwise, the decedent’s share of ownership in the property is part of his or her estate. Other types of property that pass automatically to a designated beneficiary — such as payable-on-death bank accounts and life insurance proceeds — also do not go through probate.
Proving a will
If the decedent signed the will in front of two witnesses and it is uncontested, only one witness needs to testify or submit a sworn statement attesting to its validity. If it is contested, both witnesses must do so. If the will is holographic — that is, handwritten by the decedent — two witnesses must authenticate the handwriting. If there is a serious question as to the will’s validity, it may be necessary to call other witnesses and to present other evidence as well. As the attorney for the estate, I gather and present whatever evidence may be available to prove that the will is valid.
Dealing with creditors and taxes
A personal representative must notify all the decedent’s known creditors so they can make claims for payment. The county clerk also publishes a notice in a local newspaper. A creditor can make a formal claim to the probate court within one year of the decedent’s death. Other obligations of the personal representative include filing, within 60 days, a request with TennCare, the state Medicaid agency, for a release of any state claim for reimbursement for benefits paid to the decedent’s nursing home or home care provider. The personal representative must also file final state and federal income tax returns for the decedent and for the estate. In addition, an estate of sufficient size might have to pay federal estate taxes. All of this must be completed before estate assets are distributed to the beneficiaries. Part of my role as counsel is to make sure the estate is in compliance with these requirements.
Contact a dedicated central Tennessee probate attorney
If you are tasked with serving as personal representative of an estate, I can provide reliable guidance throughout the probate process. Call Gasser Law PLLC, in Smyrna, Tennessee, at 615-267-0588 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.