Working With You To Address Probate And Estate Matters
If you have lost someone close to you, we at Tidwell & Associates understand the nature of loss. Our legal team is careful to be aware of your feelings of loss as and respectful of your lost loved one. We also ensure that this emotionally difficult event receives proper handling from a legal perspective.
The probate and estate administration process can be complex and often confusing. Having a lawyer on your side who fully understands all the applicable laws and steps in the process can make things infinitely easier. Based in Chattanooga, our firm is here to step in and handle the legal issues while you attend to your grief and healing.
The Probate Process
First and foremost, establish whether or not the decedent (loved one who passed) had a will. If so, secure the original as soon as possible. We will then look at a number of issues, including who is named in the will as executor and are they willing to serve. If that person will serve, you need to get that person the original will so they can retain counsel. It is the executor named in the will that initiates probate. If the named executor is not willing to serve and there is no successor executor named, the next of kin is usually asked to serve.
- If there is no will, any next of kin can file a petition for probate if needed.
- If you accept the naming as executor or the call to serve, determine what property the deceased owned at death. Are there real estate properties, bank accounts or investments? Make a list with approximate values to take to your first meeting with an attorney.
- In Tennessee, only married couples can jointly own their home under tenancy by the entirety. When this is the case, it means that the marital piece of real estate passes to the spouse upon operation of law at the death of the co-owner without the need to probate.
- If you can, determine whether any financial accounts have a co-owner or person named to receive the funds on the death of the owner. These provisions are commonly called “pay at death” or “PAD” clauses and are a part of the agreement between the deceased and the financial institution. These are enforceable under contract law without the need for probate.
- You also need to collect any information or documents needed regarding any debt left by the deceased.
- Seek legal advice if there is a dispute over a will.
Is Probate Necessary?
You want to discuss with your counsel whether probate is necessary. It is often not, especially where the assets are held so that those assets pass to a designated heir without the need of a court-appointed representative for the deceased. An executor of an estate legally takes the place of the deceased to conduct legal affairs such as selling real estate or transferring money to the designated heirs. There can be other reasons to probate such as pending litigation, disputes among the heirs, excessive debt, complex joint ownership of estate assets, etc.
If probate is necessary, there are several kinds of probate with the complexity and costs of the probate being proportionate to the complexity of the issues facing the estate.
If you are to be an executor, you need to have the deceased’s mail and email forwarded to you and secure their computer and cell phone. These steps could help you locate assets or debts you would not be made aware of without taking those steps. Leave the phone on for a couple of months. Get the email address up and running until the probate is finished. These are invaluable sources of information when it comes to finding assets in particular. You will also have to open a bank account in the name of the estate. Your counsel here will assist with all of these chores.
On a finishing note, keep great records. We can recommend some ways of keeping excellent records, including using some computer programs. You must keep all canceled checks and any receipts for proof of payment. Also, keep up with the time you spend doing this. In most cases in Tennessee, you are entitled to a fee under the law.
Let Us Help You With Probate
To further discuss aspects of the probate process or any questions you have, get in touch with our firm today and schedule a consultation. Contact us using our online contact form or call our office at 423-340-4222.