Avoiding Probate: Small Estate Administration

Whether deserving or not, probate is often a scary thought to many people. Probate is the court process that distributes certain assets to heirs and any creditors upon the death of an individual. Often the probate process can drag out for a long time causing increasing headaches and expenses. As a result people try to avoid the probate process as much as possible. Tennessee provides an option to avoid probate for those who may have estates of more modest size.

Tennessee’s small estate option makes it both simpler and less expensive for heirs to obtain the assets of the deceased individual without having to go through the probate process. The small estate law applies whether the deceased individual had a will or not. However, there are certain conditions that must be met for the small estate law to apply.

You may be wondering exactly what an “estate” is. An estate means the belongings or assets of the deceased person. Tennessee’s small estate law requires the value of the deceased’s personal property must be $25,000 or under in order to utilize a small estate administration. The personal property includes any type of belongings other than real estate or land. Personal property can also include any insurance that is payable to the estate.

Upon determining that a small estate administration would be appropriate, an affidavit is filed with the court to show: 1) if there was a will; 2) a list of any unpaid debts; 3) itemized list of the property in the estate; 4) a list of people who have possession of the property; 5) any insurance payable to the estate; 6) a list of people entitled to receive any property; and 7) whether the person signing the affidavit will provide notice to creditors through publication. In addition, the court will require filing fees to be paid upon filing the affidavit.

There are only certain people who may qualify to administer a small estate. Those qualifying to administer a small estate can include: 1) an adult designated in the will; 2) if there is not a will, an heir or next of kin; 3) any competent adult accepted by those named in the will; or 4) the largest creditor of the estate.

The court may require bond. However, under Tennessee law the court may waive bond where so applicable.

Upon the filing of the affidavit, the court will issue copies of the affidavit in certified form. The affiant, or the person on the affidavit, will take these copies to those possessing any property of the decedent. The affiant then takes possession and manage the property as a fiduciary. It is the affiant’s responsibility to ensure that all debts of the decedent are paid off and any court costs are paid off. The affiant then distributes any remaining assets according to the will or to the laws of intestacy.

If you believe that small estate administration may be a potential option for you, give our attorneys at The Higgins Firm a call. Our Tennessee probate lawyers would be happy to help you with your small estate administration.