When a loved one passes away, the decedent’s financial affairs will
need to be fully addressed and resolved, whether the decedent left behind
a will or not.
This process includes paying off the decedent’s debts and taxes,
deciding what to do with the decedent’s home, distributing the decedent’s
personal effects and taking the leftover assets and distributing them
to the heirs. This is called probate.
Probate is a court-supervised procedure that takes place after someone dies. Depending
on the size of the estate, it may be legally required. If the decedent
named an executor in their will, that person will be responsible for wrapping
up the decedent’s financial affairs, assuming he or she accepts
If the decedent never drafted a will and they died intestate (without a
valid will), the court will appoint someone to gather the decedent’s
assets, pay off the debts and taxes and eventually distribute the remaining
assets to those who stand to inherit under Tennessee’s intestate
succession laws, which determine how assets are distributed in the absence
of a will.
If the decedent died without a will, usually the court appoints the decedent’s
surviving spouse or a close family member to be the administrator of the
estate, also known as the personal representative.
Not all assets are subject to probate. The only assets that must pass through
probate are those that were in the decedent’s name alone. All other
assets, including those with beneficiary designations pass outside of probate.
Duties of the Executor/Personal Representative
Probate is not only lengthy, it is complex. Once the executor or personal
representative is appointed, he or she will have legal authority over
the decedent’s assets.
The personal representative is held to the highest standards of “fiduciary
duty,” and they cannot engage in any self-dealing, commingling of
assets, nor can they have a personal bias over towards one heir over the others.
If the executor fails to follow the proper protocol, or if they squander
the estate’s assets, he or she can be removed from their duties
and held liable for any harm done to the estate. Moreover, if there is
a will contest, the executor must be prepared to defend the estate.
Probate takes six months to one year on average to complete. It is a complicated
process, and probate courts in every state recommend that executors
always be represented by an experienced probate attorney.
Should you retain a Nashville probate lawyer? Yes, absolutely, it is the
only way to ensure that the process is streamlined and handled in full
accordance with the law. Since 2001, I have been handling probate and
estate litigation matters, and I would be more than glad to guide you.
Call (888) 492-4735 to find out how I can make the process easier on you.