Some people are very familiar with the
probate process, especially if they’ve dealt with it personally when a loved
one passed away. Others on the other hand – are
not familiar with probate at all. In fact, a lot of people have never heard the term
“probate” before until someone close to them passed away.
If you’re one of those people who envisioned when your loved one
passed away, all the heirs would gather in a room with the decedent’s
attorney as he read the will, and then the lawyer would cut the heirs'
checks after the meeting – that happens on TV and the movies –
real life, not so much.
While you may definitely meet with a decedent’s
estate planning lawyer if you’re a beneficiary to the estate, it would be unrealistic
to expect the estate to be closed that quickly. Why? Because, most estates
have to go through probate and it can take many months, if not a year
or longer, for heirs to receive their inheritance.
What is Probate Exactly?
When someone dies in Tennessee, their estate has to go through probate.
Probate is the court-supervised process where a will is validated, a personal
representative (usually the person named in the will) is appointed to
administer the estate, the decedent’s debts and taxes are paid,
and then whatever assets remain are distributed to the beneficiaries.
Not all of a decedent’s assets are subject to probate. The only assets
that go through probate are those that are in the decedent’s name
alone, or assets without beneficiary designations.
These types of assets are NOT considered a part of the probate estate:
All property owned in joint tenancy, such as a home or a bank account. For instance, if two brothers were
on a bank account and one died, the bank account would automatically pass
to the surviving brother.
Property that’s held in tenancy by the entirety. For example, if a husband and wife owned a home and it was held in joint
tenancy by both spouses, when the husband dies, the house would automatically
transfer to his wife.
Life insurance with named beneficiaries. If a life insurance policy has named beneficiaries, that money would pass
on to the beneficiaries automatically – it would not be subject
Payable-on-death bank accounts with beneficiary designations. The funds in these accounts pass directly to the beneficiary upon the death
of the account holder.
Retirement accounts – these funds pass directly to beneficiaries.
Assets in a living
trust – these assets pass to beneficiaries and are not delayed because of probate.
Probate can be a long, drawn-out process, especially for the more complicated
estates. If you are ready to begin estate planning, you may prefer to
organize your assets in such a manner so some of them pass outside of
probate, and so your loved ones can receive those assets sooner than later.
To learn more about the strategic ways you can organize your assets to
expedite probate, reduce legal fees, and help your loved ones –
contact my Nashville estate planning firm today.