Working as a Tennessee probate attorney, I get calls every day from people asking whether or not their loved one’s estate will have to go through probate court. Probate court is the court that oversees the payment of any debts and the transferring of a person’s assets after a person’s death. Like so many things in the legal field, determining whether an estate needs to be probated depends on a number of factors. Each person’s estate is different and is comprised of different types of assets. Thankfully Tennessee offers different options for those estates of varying sizes and types.
Only Certain Assets Are Probate Assets
Only certain assets are required to go through some type of probate administration. Generally, only those assets that the decedent had in his or her name alone are required to go through some probate administration. If the asset has a listed beneficiary, is owned jointly with another person, or has a transferrable on death designation, the asset is not required to go through probate court as it transfers immediately upon a person’s death.
Small Estate Administration
Tennessee offers a specific probate option for those estates of a more modest size. Known as a small estate administration, this option is only for those estates comprised of personal property valued at less than $25,000. This option cannot be used for an estate that includes any real property (also known as real estate). The small estate procedure is begun when the affiant (the person nominated in a will or a competent adult heir if there is no will) files a small estate affidavit with the court in the county where the decedent last resided. The affidavit includes information regarding the decedent and the assets that he or she left. Upon filing the affidavit and court approval, the court will issue certified copies to the affiant. The affiant can then use the certified affidavit to pay off any debts and transfer the assets. There are a number of benefits to a small estate administration including it being a much shorter and cheaper process.
Muniment of Title
Tennessee offers this option for the limited purpose of establishing a muniment of title to real estate. In other words this process allows an individual to file a will with the court to determine only the ownership of property. When probating a will for muniment of title, no other assets other than the real estate can be transferred. The other requirement is that the decedent must have left a valid will. Upon determining that the will is valid, the court then issues an order verifying the validity of the will and the transfer of property. This is obviously a more limited option, but it can be very useful for those only looking to transfer ownership of real property. It is an expedited process and can be cheaper than other options.
Fully Probating an Estate
If you have probate assets that are of greater value than $25,000 or if you have real property and any other probate assets, then fully probating the estate will be the option for you. Although probate has gotten a bad reputation from some, it does offer the protection of the court overseen process. Fully probating an estate can end up taking more time and costing more money but the court overseen process can ensure that the assets are distributed accordingly.
If you have any further questions about any Tennessee probate issues, contact the Nashville probate lawyers at The Higgins Firm.