When you lose a loved one, the process of probate can make grieving even more difficult. At Vance Law Office, PLLC, we help you, supporting you legally through the process and easing the burdens of probate.

Tennessee Probate Attorneys You Can Trust

Probate is a complex process that begins after someone passes away. Probate is the process completed when a decedent leaves assets to distribute, such as bank accounts, real estate, and financial investments. Probate is the general administration of a deceased person's will, or the estate of a deceased person who has passed away without a will.

Our job, at Vance Law Office, PLLC, is to make sure we help you in this sensitive time, so that the deceased person's assets are distributed according to their wishes and in compliance with state probate laws. We make sure the estate is settled efficiently and correctly, letting you focus on your loved ones, instead of the law.

What We Do as Your Probate Attorneys

  • Initial consultation to understand the client's situation and determine if probate is necessary.
  • Help you identify and assess the deceased person's assets and debts to create an inventory of the estate.
  • Advise you on the legal requirements for notifying beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors about the probate process.
  • Verify the validity of the deceased person's will and address any challenges or disputes that may arise.
  • Assist the executor of the will of their responsibilities, including gathering assets, paying debts, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.
  • Guide you through the entire probate process, ensuring compliance with Tennessee's probate laws and regulations.
  • Help you address and resolve any creditor claims against the estate, ensuring a fair and orderly payment process.
  • Prepare and file all necessary legal documents with the appropriate probate court, including the petition for probate and estate accounting.
  • Offer services to protect the rights of beneficiaries and heirs, ensuring they receive their rightful share of the estate, update existing wills, to make sure they match your wishes and financial circumstances.
  • Assist with the preparation and submission of the final accounting of the estate's assets and expenses to the court.

Ask An Attorney About: Probate

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person's assets are distributed and their debts are settled. It ensures that the deceased person's wishes are followed and that creditors are paid.

A person who makes a will is known as a “testator." Their estate is distributed according to their instructions once the will is shown to be valid. A deceased person without a will is said to be “intestate." In this case, their estate is distributed according to state laws of intestate succession.

With or without a will, a deceased person's estate must be settled and distributed (“probated"). Though probate laws and terminology vary by state, the process typically involves the following steps:

  • Petition to Probate
  • Swear In a Personal Representative
  • Give Notice to Interested Parties
  • Determine the Value of the Estate
  • Pay Debts and Taxes
  • And finally, distribute remaining assets.

Once debts and taxes are paid, the remaining property can be distributed. Again, this will be done according to the decedent's will if one exists or according to state laws of intestate succession if one does not.

Probate can vary in terms of how long it takes, particularly depending on how complex the estate is, and if there are any disputes. It can take a few months to over a year for probate to be completed.

Avoiding Probate: Why?

The probate process exists to ensure that a deceased person's wishes are respected, that their legitimate debts are paid, and that their property is distributed systematically in the absence of a will. Many people think the process is always long, expensive, and to be avoided. This is only sometimes true.

The probate process can certainly be expensive. Costs might include fees for personal representatives, attorneys, and appraisers, as well as court costs. As with many legal proceedings, it can also be time-consuming, especially if there is a dispute or some of the estate needs to be liquidated to pay debts.

However, the time and money spent in probate depend greatly on the estate. Resources spent probating a relatively small estate can be minimal. The more extensive, valuable, or complex the estate, the more time probate might take. An estate planning or probate attorney can evaluate your circumstances and help determine the cost-effectiveness of “avoiding probate."

Avoiding Probate: How?

Probate is the process of distributing a decedent's property, and property generally cannot be removed from the estate once the owner dies. Therefore, most strategies for avoiding probate require some planning ahead. That said, there are a number of ways to avoid probate, including:

Joint Ownership With Right of Survivorship
Property can be owned individually or jointly. Some forms of joint ownership include a “right of survivorship." This refers to the automatic transfer of a deceased co-owner's property interest to surviving owners. The automatic transfer pursuant to Tennessee law can avoid probate.

Who is responsible for handling my relative’s probate process in Tennessee?

An executor, or personal representative, appointed by the deceased person in their will or by the court, is responsible for handling the probate process. We regularly work with executors to complete probate with care and efficiency.

Will there be any estate taxes involved in my loved one’s probate process?

Tennessee does not have a state estate tax. However, federal estate taxes may apply to larger estates. The estate planning process can help set you up to avoid estate taxes so your assets go to your loved ones.