Losing a loved one is hard. Going to court, after your loss, doesn’t have to add to your sorrow. Let a Probate Attorney guide you through the process.

Our lawyers understand you and have a plan. After your loved one has passed away, you may need to hire a lawyer to probate their estate in order to transfer their assets to their heirs or loved one (whether they had a will or not). A Probate Attorney will walk you through this process and be with you in court, so that you can gather your loved one’s assets, pay their debts and taxes, and distribute their assets in a simple fashion. As highly skilled attorneys working with probate, we won’t promise it’s easy for our lawyers, but we can promise it will be easier on you - with the help of our lawyers.

Probate Process

What is Probate?

Probate is the legal process to transfer assets from a deceased person to their heirs or beneficiaries. Oftentimes, people think that having a will means that they won’t have to go through probate court. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Even the word "probate" means "to prove a will". Wills in Tennessee and Georgia mean nothing until a court says they do.

What does it mean to be the executor, administrator or personal representative?

Executor, administrator, and personal representative all mean the same thing – it’s the person that has the authority to take action on behalf of the deceased person’s estate. I’ll refer to them as "personal representative" on this website, but just know that the words are interchangeable according to the law. A personal representative’s role will vary regarding the assets in the estate. Many personal representatives will be given the authority by the court/ law to liquidate a person’s estate, list the house for sale, handle any final taxes, pay creditors and administrative expenses, and then distribute whatever funds remain in the estate’s bank account to the beneficiaries or heirs.

How long does this process take?

It depends on the type of administration you are doing. If there are assets valued at $50,000 or higher, or if there is real estate regardless of the value, the probate will take at least twelve months from the date of death to complete the process in court. If the only thing your loved one left behind is real estate or if they left behind assets worth less than $50,000 in value, then you may have the option of doing a less complicated form of probate regarding your particular case.

Personal Context

What about my loved one’s estate?

If your loved one leaves behind assets that are either (1) solely in their name or (2) don’t have beneficiaries listed on them, you will almost certainly need to probate their estate in court.

How are creditors handled in this process?

In Tennessee, with the exception of the government, creditors have one year from a person’s date of death to collect any money owed to them. If they do not collect their money within that time frame, they will no longer be entitled to payment, according to the law. If there is a co-signer or guarantor on that debt and that person is still alive, the co-signer or guarantor will continue to be responsible for that debt. During the probate, we give direct notice that we have opened a probate to all known creditors. We also publish a notice in the local Tennessee newspaper letting everyone else know that the probate is open in hopes that unknown creditors will file their claims. Known creditors that receive direct notice will have four months to file their claim in court (instead of one year). All other creditors will have one year from the date of death to file their claims in court.

Is there anything I can do to avoid probating my loved one’s estate?

If your loved one is already deceased, and they meet the qualifications listed above, then the answer is most likely "no". You can, however, plan to take action now to make sure your loved ones don’t have to probate your estate. Oftentimes, we will utilize a trust to avoid probate with your own assets during the estate planning process. No one that is in this process enjoys being there or can even plan for these circumstances. It is lengthy (at least one year from the date of death) and expensive and regarding personal subject matter.

What type is your case?

The Three Types in the State of Tennessee:

1.When you’re only transferring real estate

2.When you’re transferring estates valued at less than $50,000 with no real estate

3.When you’re transferring estates valued at more than $50,000 or estates that have real estate plus other assets (regardless of the value of those assets).

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"Having Jelks as my attorney helped me understand all the different types of probate in Chattanooga, TN."

This process can be daunting and stressful for most people, so let our lawyers guide you through. Our firm truly believes that this process should not be solely your responsibility. So go ahead, pass it off to our firm here in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Our legal team will handle your case with proficiency and ethically.