Whether you die with a will in place or you die without a will in place, chances are that your estate is going to be subjected to the probate process if you live in Tennessee when you pass away. There is only one surefire way to avoid the probate process and that is to have your assets placed in a revocable living trust instead of naming beneficiaries for those assets in a will. As a result of this reality, it is important to understand what the probate process entails in Tennessee, so that you can weigh the pros and cons of executing a revocable living trust in order to save your surviving loved ones from the hassle of navigating the probate process after you pass away.
What Exactly Is Probate?
As an experienced Knoxville, TN probate lawyer – including those who practice at Carpenter & Lewis PLLC – can explain in greater detail, probate is (essentially) the process of either proving the contents of someone’s will and executing the will creator’s wishes or managing their estate without the benefit of a will’s instructions. In Tennessee, virtually every estate is subjected to the probate process and this process can take several months to complete. When particularly complex estates are under scrutiny or if there are legal questions concerning the estate that provokes in-fighting amongst surviving loved ones, the probate process can take longer than a year to resolve.
How Does the Probate Process Work in Tennessee?
At the start of the probate process, a surviving loved one or a named representative chosen by the deceased before they passed away will assume authority for the management of the estate that is being scrutinized. This essentially means that after you die, unless you have named somebody else to serve in this role, the court will name one of your surviving loved ones to manage the execution of your estate.
Estate administration essentially entails settling the debts you left behind, distributing the assets that you left behind, and otherwise getting all of your affairs in order. Having a strong estate plan in place and making sure that it is current at all times will help to ensure that the individual entrusted with managing your estate honors your wishes and has a very clear sense of exactly what those wishes are. More than two out of every three Americans do not have a will in place. Dying without a will in place and dying without a current will in place can create a lot of stress for your surviving loved ones and headaches for your estate administrator.
Note that some assets do not need to be subjected to the probate process. For example, if you have a life insurance policy in place and you have explicitly named beneficiaries of that policy within its terms, that policy will be able to bypass the probate process. Other exceptions to the rules of Tennessee probate may apply to your situation, but you’ll want to check with an attorney to be sure.